– Dozens of people gathered in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Friday to mourn the sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a symbol, the crowd heard, of hope, revival and power until its demise.
Some embraced and others laid flowers in memory of the Moskva missile cruiser at a monument to the 1696 foundation of the Russian navy in the centre of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet.
Moscow, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an ammunition explosion.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused it to sink.
Reuters was unable to verify the exact circumstances of the ship’s demise.
“Even for those who have not been on it, the Moskva was a symbol for everyone, a symbol of our power, of our hope, of the revival of the fleet in the 1990s” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Reserve Captain Sergei Gorbachev, who spoke to the crowd in his naval uniform.
“There will be victories, there will be tragedies, but the memory remains,” Gorbachev said.
The crowd, which included a number of people who served on the ship, stood in respectful silence. Some wore the ribbon of St. George, a symbol of the Russian military.
“The loss of every ship, especially a flagship, is a tragedy for all those tens of thousands of people who served there for over 20 years,” said priest Georgiy Ployakov.
Russia sent tens of thousands of soldiers into Ukraine on Feb. 24 on what it calls a “special operation”.