Russia admitted that its largest ship in the Black Sea had gone under on Thursday, after Ukraine said on Wednesday that it scored a rocket strike on the vessel.
Ukrainian officials first announced on Wednesday evening that they had hit the rocket cruiser Moskva off the coast of Odessa with one of the country’s home-developed “Neptune” anti-ship missiles.
Moskva is Russian for Moscow, the country’s capital.
Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, one of Russia’s main naval bodies. Based out of the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, the fleet was buttressed by ships taken from Ukraine’s navy after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.
Within hours of Ukrainian officials first claiming that the ship had sunk on Wednesday evening, Russia’s Ministry of Defense issued a terse statement through state wire services saying that a fire on board the vessel had caused ammunition to explode. The statement said that the ship’s crew had been forced evacuate.
Pentagon officials said on Thursday morning that while they had observed an explosion on board the ship, they believed that the vessel was still underway. Spokesman John Kirby said that the Moskva was traveling on its own power back to Crimea, likely for repairs.
But Russian state media issued another statement from the country’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday, saying that it had sunk. The cause was attributed to “stormy conditions,” saying that the incident took place while the cruiser was under tow and partly caused by the boat “losing stability due to hull damage from a detonation of ammunition stores during a fire.”
For Ukraine, the ship’s loss has been another morale boost in the six-week war of defense that it’s been fighting against Russia.
The Mosvka purportedly took part in the attack on Snake Island in the war’s first days. True or not, Ukraine adopted the supposed response of its sailors on the island to demands from Russian vessels, including the Moskva, that they surrender.