Cargo ship sinks off coast of Ukraine after ‘massive explosion’ – multiple people missing

THE ESTONIAN cargo ship Helt has sunk off the Ukrainian port of Odessa after an explosion, the vessel’s manager said.

Helt, the sunk cargo ship near Odessa

Helt, the sunk vessel (Image: VESSEL FINDER)

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Two crew members were in a life raft at sea while four others were unaccounted for, Igor Ilves, managing director of Tallinn-based manager Vista Shipping Agency, confirmed, adding the vessel might have struck a mine. The news follows reports the Black Sea port might be Vladimir Putin’s next big target as his attacks continue on day eight after his invasion of Ukraine began. 

Mr Ilves said: “The vessel has finally sunk.

“Two of the crew are in a raft on the water and four others are missing. I don’t know where they are at the moment.”

Odessa, Ukraine’s biggest port city and the third largest in total, is crucial for the country’s economic survival. Because of that, an attack would be disastrous. And exactly for that reason, it is seen as highly likely.

On Wednesday, City Mayor Gennady Trukhanov was inspecting a bomb shelter when he received a call that a Russian fighter jet had fired a rocket at a military installation just outside the town.

According to the New York Times, Mr Trukhanov told the caller: “Don’t be a hero.

“There will be time for that later.”

When he hung up the phone, he said: “I think they’re testing our antiaircraft systems.

“He flies in, we open fire, he flies away and almost immediately they fire a rocket.”

Ukrainian officials confirmed overnight the country’s southern port of Kherson — the first major city to be taken by Putin — had fallen to Russia, with its mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, saying troops had forced their way into the city council building and imposed a curfew on residents.

Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency: “The (Russian) occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous.”

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William Murphy

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