A freighter flying the flag of Dominica sank in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine after being targeted by Russian missile strikes, the ship’s flag record showed.
The Azburg was reportedly without cargo and docked in Mariupol when it was initially hit by two missiles on April 3, the Dominica Maritime Administration said.
“On April 4, at around 10:40 p.m. (local time), the ship came under heavy fire from the Russian armed forces after intentionally shelling the ship twice the day before,” the register said in a statement.
“Specific patterns of fire on the ship remain unknown, the crew reported repeated shelling, shelling and missile fire, causing a fire in the engine room.”
One of the 12 crew members required medical attention while the others were evacuated to nearby vessels, the Dominica Register said.
Russian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moscow has said it is not targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.
Ukraine said this week it was preparing for around 60,000 Russian reservists to be called up to bolster Moscow’s offensive in the east, where Russia’s main targets included Mariupol and Kharkiv, the second city from the country.
Eric Dawicki, deputy administrator for maritime affairs with the registry, said the ship sank early on Tuesday.
He said the register assumed the sinking would “create environmental barriers”.
“It will certainly create obstacles to navigation on the quay and we are certainly concerned,” he told Reuters.
“The indiscriminate bombardment of a merchant ship with a civilian crew with no place to seek refuge is the lowest of lows,” Dawicki added.
Dawicki said the information was received by the ship’s operator who was in email contact with the crew.
A senior Ukrainian maritime administration official said earlier on Tuesday that the ship had been hit by a Russian Navy missile, according to initial reports.
Reuters was unable to independently verify details of the sinking.
The ship arrived in Mariupol on February 23 and was unable to leave Ukrainian waters due to port closures, according to British security firm Ambrey Intelligence and the Register.
The Russian military took control of the waterways around Ukraine when it invaded on February 24.
Two sailors have been killed and five other merchant ships hit by projectiles – one of which has sunk – off the coast of Ukraine since the conflict began, shipping officials said.
Australian Associated Press