The Russian Navy evacuates the flagship Moskva in the Black Sea. Ukraine claims to have been hit by a missile


One of the Russian Navy’s most important warships floats abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a blow for an army battling Ukrainian resistance 50 days after Vladimir Putin invaded its neighbor.

Russian sailors evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, after a fire blew up munitions on board, Russian state media reported on Wednesday.

State media TASS and RIA, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, said the Moskva was badly damaged in the incident and the cause of the fire was under investigation. The Russian reports gave no information about possible casualties.

But hours earlier, a Ukrainian official claimed the Russian warship had been hit by cruise missiles fired from Ukraine.

Due to major storms over the Black Sea obscuring satellite imagery and sensory satellite data, CNN was unable to visually confirm that the ship was hit or its current condition, but analysts noted that a fire on board such a ship can result in a catastrophic disaster. explosion that could sink it.

Whatever the reason for the fire, analysts say it represents a blow to the heart of the Russian Navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy’s loss of a battleship in World War II. or an aircraft carrier today.

“Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov (the only Russian aircraft carrier) would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the reputation of the navy with the Russian public,” Carl Schuster said. , a retired captain in the United States Navy and former director of operations at the Joint Intelligence Center of the US Pacific Command.

Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College London, said the loss of the warship would be a “crushing blow” for Russia.

“Vessels operate far from public view and their activities are rarely the subject of news. But these are great floating chunks of national territory, and when you lose one, a flagship no less, the political and symbolic message – in addition to the military loss – stands out precisely because of that,” he said. he declares.

The 611-foot (186-meter) Moskva, with a crew of nearly 500, is the pride of Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet. Originally commissioned into the Soviet Navy as Slava in the 1980s, she was renamed Moskva in 1995 and after a refit she was returned to service in 1998, according to military website

The Moskva is armed with a range of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as well as torpedoes and naval guns and close-in missile defense systems.

All of this adds up to massive amounts of explosive ordnance in its ammo magazines. Any nearby fires would have given the crew limited options to deal with the threat, Schuster said.

“When a fire reaches your ammo store(s), you have two choices; 1) flood them or 2) abandon ship,” Schuster said. “Otherwise, your crew is on board to be wiped out by the catastrophic explosion that follows a fire reaching several hundred tons of munitions.”

Odessa state regional administrator Maxim Marchenko claimed in a Telegram message that Ukrainian forces used Neptune cruise missiles to attack the Moskva. If true, the Moskva would potentially be the largest warship ever taken out of service by a missile, Schuster said.

Such an achievement would represent a big step forward for the Kyiv forces.

The Neptune is a Ukrainian weapon, developed locally on the basis of the Soviet KH-35 cruise missile. It only became operational in the Ukrainian forces last year, according to Ukrainian media.

If used to attack the Moskva, it would be the first known use of the Neptune during the war, according to a message on the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) website from Lt. Cmdr. Jason Lancaster, a US Navy surface warfare officer.

His message to CIMSEC on Tuesday said the threat posed by land-based mobile cruise missiles like the Neptune “alters the operational behavior” of an enemy.

“Russian ships will operate in a manner that minimizes the risk of detection and maximizes their chances of defending themselves,” Lancaster wrote. “These changes in behavior limit Russia’s ability to use its fleet to its advantage. The added stress of a sudden fight increases fatigue and can lead to mistakes.

According to Patalano, the war professor: “It seems the Russians learned this the hard way today.”

In the CIMSEC message, Lancaster notes that Britain’s Royal Navy lost several ships to missiles fired by Argentina during the 1982 Falklands War.

During this war, a British submarine sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, a former World War II US Navy vessel similar in size to the Moskva.

The Moskva is also of symbolic importance to Ukraine as it was one of the ships involved in the famous Snake Island swap in February, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

According to an alleged audio exchange in late February, as the Russians approached the Ukrainian garrison on Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, in the Black Sea, a Russian officer said: “C is a military warship. This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your arms and surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombarded.

A Ukrainian soldier replied, “Russian warship, fuck you.”

If Moskva is lost, it would be the second large Russian Navy ship to suffer this fate during Moscow’s war with Ukraine.

In late March, Ukraine said a missile strike had destroyed a Russian landing ship in the port of Berdyansk.