Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has sunk after being damaged by an explosion on Wednesday, Russia’s defense ministry said on Thursday.
The ship, a symbol of Russia’s military power, leading its naval assault on Ukraine was being towed to port when “stormy seas” caused it to sink, according to a ministry message.
Conflicting claims on what caused Russia’s flagship to sink
Ukraine says its missiles hit the 510-crew missile cruiser. Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine’s Operational Command South claimed that the Moskva had begun to sink after it was hit by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.
“In the Black Sea operational zone, Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles hit the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet—it received significant damage,” the statement said and “A fire broke out. Other units of the ship’s group tried to help, but a storm and a powerful explosion of ammunition overturned the cruiser and it began to sink.”
Russia has not reported any attack and says the vessel sank after a fire.
The blaze caused the explosion of the warship’s ammunition, Russia says, adding that the entire crew was later evacuated to nearby Russian vessels in the Black Sea. It provided no further details.
Moskva saw service in Georgia, Syria, Ukraine
The Soviet-era vessel saw service during conflicts in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States.
The 12,500 ton Moskva was armed with multiple anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles and was the only ship of its class in the Black Sea. The two other missile cruisers—the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyag—are deployed with Russia’s Northern and Pacific fleets respectively.
CIA: Russia may use tactical nuclear weapons
Vladimir Putin may resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in light of military setbacks in the invasion of Ukraine, the CIA director, William Burns, has said.
During a speech in Atlanta, Burns said: “Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership … none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.”
The Kremlin placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert shortly after the assault began on 24 Februaryth.
Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Putin directed the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.