Kryvyi Rhi, Ukraine —‘s underdog forces have dealt Vladimir Putin’s military another major blow. The Ukrainian military said Thursday that it had badly damaged one of Russia’s most essential warships with a missile strike off Ukraine’s battered southern coast.
Russia’s military acknowledged that the guided missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, had been forced to evacuate its entire crew — around 500 sailors — and was being towed back to port, but the defense ministry said it was because of a fire onboard, the cause of which was still being investigated.
As CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports, the good news for Ukraine was tempered by the mercilessness of Russia’s ongoing war, and fears over what is still to come.
Ukraine’s defense forces have put up a much tougher resistance than many expected during the first 49 days of Russia’s invasion and aerial assault. They have been aided by some notable Russian military failures, but now Ukraine is bracing for a fresh Russian attack in the country’s far eastern Donbas regions.
Thousands of civilians are still pouring out of the hardest hit areas, but as Williams reports, even for those who escape Donbas to the relative safety of central Ukraine, circumstances are dire, and getting worse.
At an evacuation center, Williams met people recently displaced by Russia’s brutal invasion as they registered and got whatever help is available, but the center is running short of even the most basic supplies like soap and toothbrushes.
The pain and the anxiety of those forced to flee their homes is written on their faces.
Williams and her team found Galina Yegorova distraught. She made it out of the far eastern Donetsk region before the expected Russian assault, but her 73-year-old husband refused to come with her.
“He’s very afraid to travel because he’s old, he’s afraid to leave his house behind,” she told CBS News. “We left our whole life there, we built it from scratch. He said he won’t go anywhere.”
She’s desperately worried about her husband, especially as he has high blood pressure and all the hospitals in the region are closed. But when her daughter refused to leave them both behind and escape with Yegorova’s granddaughter, she had to make a heart-wrenching decision.
“She didn’t want to leave us behind, so I decided to go in order to make her go,” she told Williams through tears. Doctors gave her a sedative to help calm her nerves.
Ukraine’s civilians know they’re in the firing line. In the shattered southern port city of Mariupol — bombarded by Russia for weeks on end — Ukrainian officials say more than 20,000 people are believed dead. Russia claims more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered there, but Ukraine denies that.
The country’s military, which amounts to just a fraction of Russia’s forces, continues to punch above its weight. The most recent evidence of that was the rocket strike announced Thursday on the Moskva warship. It was the same ship thatwhen they were ordered to surrender on the tiny Snake Island at the start of the war.
But there’s growing frustration in Ukraine as the country’s leaders and military forces say their Western partners haven’t beento defend democracy in Europe.
Colonel Igor Igamberdyyev, a veteran of Ukraine’s military, told CBS News this week that the U.S. has given Ukraine enough weapons to prevent its own destruction, but not to win the war.
“Freedom must be armed better than tyranny,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. “Western countries have everything to make it happen.”
He spelled out on Wednesday what Ukraine wants, offering a wish-list of weaponry including heavy artillery pieces — “as many as possible” — and a reminder of what he believes is a stake.
“Arm Ukraine now to defend freedom,” Zelenksyy told his Western partners.
He praised President Joe Biden for publicly accusing Russia of genocide in Ukraine, however, saying: “Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil.”