Ukraine says it hit Russian Black Sea flagship in missile attack – Reuters News in France and abroad

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Conflicting claims about what happened to a key Russian warship were circulating early Thursday, with some Ukrainians claiming a missile attack sank the vessel and the Kremlin saying only that it suffered significant damage from a fire.

But whatever happened to the Russian Navy’s missile cruiser Moskva – the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet – the episode is a major morale boost for the beleaguered Ukrainian forces and a blow to Russia. , military experts said.

Late Wednesday, Odessa state regional administrator Maxim Marchenko said a Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship cruise missile hit the Moskva, causing severe damage. Hours later, the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that a key ship in its Black Sea Fleet had suffered significant damage, but did not respond to Ukrainian claims.

Instead, the Russians said they would investigate the cause of the damage and blamed the setback on a fire that blew up the ship’s ammunition. The ship’s roughly 500 crew members have all been evacuated to other Black Sea Fleet ships in the region, Russia said.

The Russian Defense Ministry later said that “the fire on the cruiser Moskva has been located” and that “the explosions of munitions have been stopped”, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. He said the ship maintained “buoyancy” and its “main missile armament” was undamaged. The ministry added that efforts are underway “to tow the cruiser to port” and that the cause of the fire is being investigated, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine said in an update that the Moskva “was badly damaged” by a Neptune missile which caused a fire. “Other units from the ship’s group tried to help, but a storm and a powerful explosion of ammunition overturned the cruiser and it began to sink,” the Ukrainian military said.

Adding to the confusion, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN senior Ukrainian officials were not sure what was true. “Either two sailors were smoking in the wrong place, or again some security measures were violated,” Oleksiy Arestovych said. he later tweeted that the ship “drowned”.

Early Thursday, the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, said on its Telegram channel that it believed the ship had been sunk and sided with the Ukrainian assessment. . “The flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser Moskva, was indeed attacked by Neptune anti-ship missiles from the coast between Odessa and Nikolaev,” he said. A drone distracted the ship before the missiles hit, he said.

If the 12,000 ton Moskva sank, it would be the biggest sinking of a warship since World War II.

The Washington Post could not independently verify the accuracy of the claims.

The Moskva has no major strategic value, but as the flagship of the Black Sea it has symbolic significance, said Artyom Lukin, professor of international relations at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, in Russia.

The vessel is named after the Russian capital and was at the center of a widely reported attack on Snake Island, when Ukrainian border guards drew worldwide attention for insulting Russian troops at the start of the invasion .

On Snake Island in Ukraine, a provocative last stand against Russian forces

“The loss of not only one of the main surface combatants of the Russian Navy, but also the flagship of the fleet, would represent a psychological blow for the Russians,” said Collin Koh, maritime security expert at the Technological University from Nanyang to Singapore.

The idea that Ukrainian missiles hit the Moskva reinforces “the image of fierce Ukrainian resistance” and sows “more doubt in the minds of the Russian military”, especially sailors serving on Russian warships off the southern coast of Ukraine, he added.

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Ukraine says it hit Russian Black Sea flagship in missile attack – Reuters News in France and abroad