Russia Loses Black Sea Flagship in its Ukraine Invasion

Posted by Brodie Kirkpatrick on

Yesterday, Slava-class guided missile cruiser Moskva (#121) of the Russian Navy sunk in the Black Sea, off the coast of Ukraine. The ship was heavily damaged on April 13th, before sinking the next day. Russia claims the ship was heavily damaged by an internal ammunition explosion, and later sunk while being towed through a storm. Ukraine claims that the ship was hit by two locally made R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. The United States government has said that it sees the Ukrainian claims as credible. If they are true then Russian ships could be at further risk of missile strikes. While it's believed that Ukraine only has one battery of Neptunes, the missiles do have an operational range of 300km (190mi). The ship was positioned roughly 100km from the coast of Odessa, where it’s believed the missiles were fired from. Slava-class vessels do have triple-tiered air defense systems which should’ve given Moskva the opportunity to defend itself, assuming systems were operating properly. Ukrainian sources are claiming that Bayraktar TB2 drones were distracting Moskva while the Neptunes were launched.   


Lithuania’s Defense Ministry said that a Turkish-flagged ship rescued 54 sailors from the Moskva after it sent out a distress beacon on April 13th. It wasn’t specified if this was a military or civilian/commercial vessel. It’s unclear how many, if any, of Moskva’s 485 crew members suffered injuries during the events.


Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, the ship was providing air cover for Russian forces in the Black Sea area. Russian forces will lose a layer of air-defense as a result of Moskva’s sinking, from the Pentagon’s assessment. The ship, along with patrol ship Vasily Bykov, was present for the Attack on Snake Island. Moskva was notably told “go fuck yourself” by a Ukrainian border guard on the island.


Regardless of what actually caused Moskva to sink, it is a major propaganda victory for Ukraine. It’s also a major loss for the Black Sea Fleet, which already lost its deputy commander to combat in Mariupol. In reality though, removing the ship from the equation likely won’t have a major strategic impact on the direction of the war.  


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