Russian state media reported on Thursday that Russia’s most prominent warship, the Moskva, has sunk in the Black Sea. The report comes after Ukraine claimed to have made a direct hit on the vessel with two shore-based anti-ship missiles on Wednesday.
“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,” state news agency TASS quoted the Russian government as saying, BBC reported.
Late Wednesday evening, The Daily Wire reported that the “flagship of Russia’s naval fleet in the Black Sea was severely damaged from a fire on board the ship Wednesday, which comes just hours after Ukraine claimed that they hit the ship with missiles.”
Russia denied that story, claiming instead that ammunition on the ship exploded during a fire sometime on Wednesday.
“The 12,500 tonne ship has a crew of around 500,” Reuters reported. “Russian news agencies said the Moskva was armed with 16 anti-ship ‘Vulkan’ cruise missiles, which have a range of at least 700 km (440 miles).”
“As the result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, ammunition detonated. The ship was seriously damaged,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement at the time. “The crew was completely evacuated.”
Odessa Governor Maksym Marchenko also announced via Telegram message on Tuesday that the ship was hit by Ukrainian missiles.
“It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!” Marchenko said. “Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship.”
While the exact cause of the ship’s sinking remains unconfirmed, Mark Cancian, senior adviser for the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post that it was “more likely” Ukrainian weapons had caused the ship to sink.
“Given that there’s a war going on and the Ukrainians have this anti-ship capability, it’s more likely that it was caused by these cruise missiles,” he said.
“The flagship is literally the ship on which the admiral’s flag flies,” said Cancian. “It’s typically the largest and most important ship in a fleet or squadron, and that’s the case here — this is a large and very powerful ship.”
Collin Koh, an expert on maritime security at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, also told the Post that the “loss of not just a principal surface combatant in the Russian navy, but also the fleet flagship, would amount to more of a psychological blow to the Russians.”