Ukraine, Russian armed group claim arson attack on Moscow warship in Baltic

(Reuters) -A Ukrainian military intelligence official said on Wednesday that a fire on a Russian warship in the Baltic Sea in April was caused by a joint operation conducted by his GUR agency and a pro-Kyiv Russian military group.

On April 7, the Serpukhov missile ship stationed in Russia's Kaliningrad region was set on fire, the GUR intelligence agency said at the time. It did not claim responsibility earlier.

GUR spokesperson Andriy Yusov told Reuters the operation was conducted in tandem with the Freedom of Russia Legion. Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, has made no public comment on the incident.

Ukraine regularly carries out multiple air and naval strikes on Russian warships in the Black Sea. If the reported damage to the Serpukhov is confirmed, the arson would be Ukraine's first known operation against Russia in the Baltic Sea.

The Freedom of Russia Legion said the arson attack was prepared and carried out together with certain servicemen within Russia's Baltic Sea fleet with whom it had been communicating since 2023.

"As a result of the sabotage, (we) managed to ruin the ship from inside and completely destroy communication and its means of automation," the legion said on its Telegram account.

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv on Wednesday, a former Russian navy serviceman who goes by the call sign of Goga said he managed to collect classified documents from the Serpukhov before escaping, according to the RBC-Ukraine media outlet.

"I took prepared classified documents and left the ship, leaving the territory of (Russia) as well," he was quoted by RBC-Ukraine as saying.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, writing by Yuliia Dysa; editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)