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Estonian Cargo Ship Sinks Off Ukrainian Coast After Explosion; Four Reported Missing

On Thursday, an Estonian cargo ship reportedly sunk after possibly hitting an undersea mine off the coast of Ukraine near the port city of Odessa. Four members of The Helt are unaccounted for after the explosion occurred, and two others are somewhere on a raft —presumed alive — in the Black Sea.

Reuters reported that “Igor Ilves, managing director of Tallinn-based manager Vista Shipping Agency” confirmed to the news agency that the massive ship had capsized.

“The vessel has finally sunk,” Ilves told The Daily Mail. “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.”

The Mail also added that the Ukrainian military believed the ship had been ordered by the Russian navy to enter a dangerous part of the Black Sea to act as a human shield.

The Russian navy had been accused of capturing and using several other ships this past week in a similar fashion, prompting Ukraine to warn vessels of avoiding the area, The Mail noted:

It comes after the Russian Black Sea Fleet was accused of using civilian vessels including the Helt as human shields in the invasion of Ukraine.

The military said the Russian Navy forced the Helt to enter a dangerous zone of the Black Sea to cover the movement of its own warships.  

Ukraine’s armed forces said: ‘For the safety of civil navigation, the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine closed navigation in the north-western part of the Black Sea.

‘At the same time, the Russian Black Sea Fleet continues the tactics of Russian ground forces trying to hide behind civilian lives.’  

“At least three commercial ships” have been hit by projectiles since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.

As a result, numerous “shipping companies have suspended sailings to affected Black Sea ports and other terminals in Ukraine, with insurance premiums for voyages soaring in recent days,” The Mail added.

While The Helt was operating under the Panamanian flag, it is owned by an Estonian company. What makes the sinking of The Helt more worrisome is the fact that Estonia is a member of NATO. As a result, the sinking of the ship could escalate the war even further.

On Ukraine’s mainland, CNN reported that the nation’s military is working to fend off Russian invaders from taking over the city of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine. The city has reportedly faced 26 hours of shelling from Russian troops:

The Ukrainian military is not going to surrender the city and will strike at the occupying forces. The military will also continue to destroy enemy sabotage groups on the outskirts of Mariupol,” the official continued.

Where things stand in the cityAccording to the spokesperson, Russian forces have been “constantly bombing” the city, with the objective of destroying infrastructure — including the city’s rail network. 

“Shelling is taking place even in the direction of residential buildings, schools and kindergartens,” the spokesperson told CNN. 

This is a developing story; Please check for updates.

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