Live updates on the Russian-Ukrainian war: the Moskva warship has sunk, according to Moscow

The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet suffered catastrophic damage on Thursday which a senior Ukrainian official said was the result of a missile strike by Ukrainian coastal defense forces, although Russia claimed the damage had been caused by a fire on board.

The crew of the Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva abandoned ship after a fire blew up munitions on board, the Russian Defense Ministry said. He said in a statement that the fire aboard the cruiser had been brought under control, but the Ukrainians said the ship had sunk.

The governor of the Odessa region along the Black Sea, Maxim Marchenko, said on Telegram that the country’s forces had hit the ship with Neptune anti-ship missiles. The senior Ukrainian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe active military engagement, said it was the first time the Ukrainian-developed Neptune missile had been used in warfare.

There was no independent visual confirmation of the vessel’s status and the statement regarding the Neptune could not be independently verified.

Whatever the cause of the ship’s possible demise, it was a mighty symbolic victory for the Ukrainian military, an embarrassment for Moscow and – if a Neptune was used – a demonstration of the power that new weapons could have in shaping war. . It would be the first successful Ukrainian attack on a large Russian warship at sea rather than in port.

Russian Black Sea Fleet ships have been off the coast since the start of the war, periodically launching rocket or missile attacks against targets inside Ukraine. The fleet cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, removing a vital economic lifeline.

The potential loss of the Moskva boosts the morale of Ukrainian forces, but is unlikely to change the tide of the war. Russian forces are set to take the strategic port city of Mariupol, which would pave the way for the creation of a “land bridge” between Russian territory and the occupied Crimean peninsula.

The Moskva, with a crew of almost 700, is the pride of the Russian naval fleet in the Black Sea. It was built in Soviet times in the Ukrainian port of Mykolaiv – the town where Ukrainian forces last month mounted a spirited defense that halted the Russian advance towards Odessa.

The Ukrainians have long had the ability to strike Russian ships stationed near their territorial waters, but the Neptune gives the nation’s territorial defense forces much greater reach. The missile, which is based on the Soviet AS-20 “Kayak” anti-ship missile and is similar to the US-built Harpoon missile, can hit targets up to 200 miles offshore.

As the Russian Navy positioned its fleet threateningly on the Black Sea in the weeks leading up to the war, Ukraine rushed to prepare its defenses and its military described the Neptune as a vital weapon added to its arsenal.

It is not known how many Neptune missiles the Ukrainian Navy has. But if it was a Neptune hitting the Moskva, it would be a demonstration of the weapon’s effectiveness. Ukrainians have called on the West to provide sophisticated anti-ship weapons since the start of the war.

The Pentagon estimates that the Russian Navy has “a few dozen ships” in the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov, and Ukraine has struggled to counter Russia’s naval dominance.

Credit…Maxar Technologies via Reuters

In March, the Ukrainian military said it destroyed a Russian ship in the port of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine, which is under Russian occupation, and videos and photos reviewed by The New York Times confirmed to the time a Russian ship was on fire in the port. .

Lt Cmdr. Jason Lancaster, a US Navy surface warfare officer, said the threat posed by missiles like the Neptune “alters the operational behavior” of an adversary.

write for the Center for International Maritime Security this month he said that “these changes in behavior limit Russia’s ability to use its fleet to its advantage” and that “the added stress of sudden combat increases fatigue and can lead to errors”.

The flagship entered service in the early 1980s, was renamed Moskva in 1996 and was partially refitted in 2020, according to Russian media. It was an integral part of the Russian advance in that war.

It is also the ship that Ukrainian troops denounced as it approached a Ukrainian garrison on Snake Island in the Black Sea.

According to an audio exchange released in late February, a Russian officer told the Ukrainians to surrender. “It’s a Russian military warship,” the officer said. “I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombarded.

A Ukrainian soldier offered a simple, if obscene, refusal, using words that have become a rallying cry around Ukraine.

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