Russia’s Black Sea flagship has been sunk, Moscow’s defence ministry finally admitted tonight, after Kyiv officially claimed earlier to have been behind a double-missile strike early Thursday morning off the coast of Ukraine.
The Moskva – a huge Soviet-era missile cruiser – sank as it was towed back to port in stormy weather following an explosion and fire, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday.
Ukraine says the fire on board was caused by two Neptune cruise missiles fired by one of its batteries near the port city of Odesa. Hundreds of sailors may have died in the strike.
Kyiv said earlier that it was behind an attack that it claimed caused the warship to ‘start sinking’, as naval analysts said the vessel and its 510-strong crew were left sitting ducks after sailing in predictable patterns within range of Ukraine’s coastal missile batteries.
The Kremlin had been attempting to downplay the damage, saying earlier today a fire had been contained on board, and that hundreds of crew members had been evacuated to other ships in the Black Sea. It also claimed the vessel remained afloat, and would be towed into port. It made no mention of a Ukrainian attack.
However, tonight Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the defence ministry as saying: ‘While being towed … towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank.’
The loss of the warship is the latest Russian military disaster since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The assault has not gone to plan, with Moscow’s forces taking heavy losses and failing to seize major cities – and instead have been pushed back in many regions by the fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Now, the Kremlin will be asking how its Black Sea flagship was destroyed by a country with no operational navy. Since the war broke out, Russia’s naval forces have been positioned off the coast of Ukraine to provide support to its ground troops, and to block off Kyiv’s access to the coast.
Earlier, a United States defence official said that Russia had moved its other vessels 80 miles away from the Ukrainian shore – a suspected attempt to get out of missile range – after the ship was damaged.
Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said today that it hit the warship late Wednesday, causing significant damage and starting a fire on board. Russian rescue ships were hampered by ammunition exploding on board as well as bad weather and the Moskva has now started sinking, the commanders added at the time.
John Kirby, spokesman for the Pentagon, said the ship was 60 miles off the coast of Odesa when it suffered ‘a fairly major’ explosion that caused ‘extensive damage’.
At the time of speaking, Kirby said the ship remained afloat and able to move under its own steam, and was limping towards the port at Sevastopol, Crimea. He said the US is not able to say whether the blast was caused by Ukrainian missiles, or give a sense of casualties.
Never-the-less, questions will now be asked as to how exactly Ukraine was able to take down a Russian capital ship. H I Sutton, a respected naval analyst, points out that the vessel has spent the last two months sailing in a ‘predictable’ pattern around the Black Sea – generally sitting in waters close to Snake Island, where Ukrainian soldiers had told the ship to ‘go f*** yourself’ during the early days of the war.
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Source: Daily Mail