Russian sailors have evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea fleet, after a fire exploded the ammunition depot on board, Russian state media reported on Wednesday.
State media outlets TASS and RIA, citing sources from the Russian Defense Ministry, said the Moskva ship was seriously damaged in the incident and the cause of the fire was under investigation. Russian reports give no information on possible casualties.
But hours earlier, a Ukrainian official announced that the Russian warship had been hit by a cruise missile from Ukraine.
Because major storms over the Black Sea obscure satellite imagery and sensor satellite data, CNN cannot visually confirm the ship’s impact or its current condition, but analysts note. that a fire on such a ship could lead to a catastrophic explosion that could sink it.
Whatever the cause of the fire, analysts say it hit the heart and national pride of the Russian navy, on par with the loss of a battleship by the US Navy in World War II. or an aircraft carrier today.
Carl Schuster, a retired US Navy captain and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.
Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College London, said the loss of the warship would be a “huge blow” to Russia.
“Vessels operate out of public attention and their activities are rarely the subject of news. But they are huge floating slivers of national territory, and when you lose one, you lose a ship. ships, nothing more, nothing less, political messages and symbols – beyond military he said.
The 611-foot (186-meter) Moskva, with a crew of nearly 500, is the pride of Russia’s naval fleet in the Black Sea. It was originally commissioned into the Soviet Navy as Slava in the 1980s, it was renamed Moscow in 1995 and after refit into service in 1998, according to the military website Naval-Technology .com.
The Moskva is armed with a range of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as well as torpedoes, naval guns and close-in missile defense systems.
All of that represented a large amount of explosives in its ammunition magazines. Any flames that get close to them will leave the crew with limited options for dealing with the threat, Schuster said.
“When a fire hits your magazine(s), you have two choices; 1) flood them or 2) abandon the ship,” Schuster said. “Otherwise your crew will be wiped out by catastrophic explosion after fire that amounts to several hundred tons of landmines.”
Odesa state regional administrator, Maxim Marchenko, stated in a Telegram post that Ukrainian forces used Neptune sea cruise missiles to attack Moscow. If that’s true, Moscow is likely to be the largest warship ever to be hit by a missile, Schuster said.
Such an achievement would represent a major step forward for Kyiv’s forces.
Neptune is a Ukrainian weapon, developed domestically based on the Soviet KH-35 cruise missile. It was put into operation in Ukrainian forces only last year, as reported by the Ukrainian media.
According to a post on the website of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) on the website of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), if it were used to attack Moscow, this would be how it was used. the first known use of Neptune in warfare. Jason Lancaster, a surface warfare officer in the United States Navy.
His post to CIMSEC on Tuesday said the threat posed by mobile land-based cruise missiles like Neptune “changes operational behavior” of adversaries.
“Russian ships will operate in such a way as to minimize the risk of detection and maximize the chance of self-defense,” Lancaster wrote. “These behavioral changes limit Russia’s ability to use their fleet to their advantage. The added stress of combat suddenly increases fatigue and can lead to mistakes. “
According to Patalano, professor of war: “It seems the Russians have learned that the road is difficult today.”
In the CIMSEC post, Lancaster noted that the Royal Navy had lost several ships to missiles fired by Argentina during the Falklands War of 1982.
During that war, a British submarine sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, a former US Navy World War II ship similar in size to the Moskva.
According to Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Moskva is also of symbolic significance to Ukraine as it was one of the ships that participated in the famous exchange at Snake Island in February.
A Ukrainian soldier replied: “Russian warship, go by yourself.”
If the Moskva is lost, it would be the second largest Russian naval vessel to suffer that fate during Moscow’s war with Ukraine.