Moskva: Russia admits flagship of Black Sea fleet has sunk

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By Euronews and AP
The Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Moskva sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey June 18, 2021.
The Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Moskva sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey June 18, 2021.   -  Copyright  Credit: Reuters

Russia has admitted the flagship of its Black Sea fleet has sunk after being damaged by fire. 

Ukraine claims it hit Moskva -- made infamous during an alleged incident at Snake Island earlier in the war -- with two missiles causing it "serious damage".

Moscow had initially conceded the ship was damaged without clarifying whether it was hit by Ukrainian missiles. 

Russia's defence ministry said "due to a fire, ammunition exploded on board" and that its crew were safely evacuated from the vessel. It said the fire on board had been "contained" and that the cruiser "kept its buoyancy".

Later the same ministry said the ship had sunk.  

"During the towing of the cruiser Moskva to the port of destination, the ship lost its stability due to hull damage sustained in the fire following the detonation of ammunition. In rough sea conditions, the ship sank," the ministry said on Thursday evening. 

In his nightly video address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sinking as he told Ukrainians they should be proud of having survived 50 days under attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five”.

Listing the many ways Ukraine has defended against the invasion, he noted “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea. It was his only reference to the missile cruiser.

What do we know about the Moskva?

The missile cruiser Moskva, named in honour of the Russian capital, was launched during the Cold War, saw service during conflicts in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine, and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States.

It could carry 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its loss will greatly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.

The warship was launched as the Slava from a shipyard in Mykolaiv in what was then the Soviet republic of Ukraine in July 1979, according to open-source intelligence firm Janes. Commissioned in late December 1982, it was 611.5 feet (186 metres) long. It was designed to carry a crew of 476 with an additional 62 officers.

The Slava served as the flagship of the Soviet fleet in the Black Sea. It carried both surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, deck guns, torpedoes and mortars. It also had a helicopter deck.

During the Cold War, it also carried nuclear weapons. In 1989, under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. and Soviet scientists took part in a joint test abroad the Slava in the Black Sea to measure the emission of neutrons and gamma rays from a nuclear warhead on a cruise missile.

It was about 100 kilometres due south of Odesa when the fire occurred, according to a senior US defence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal US military assessments.

The Slava underwent repairs from 1990-1999. During that time, the Soviet Union collapsed, an independent Ukraine emerged and Russia’s economy foundered. Finally overhauled and rechristened the Moskva, the ship hosted both President Vladimir Putin and then-Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi during a 2003 visit to Sardinia.