It was not immediately possible to reconcile the vastly different accounts, and cloud cover made it impossible to locate the ship or determine its condition based on satellite photos. There was even some caution from Ukrainian officials: One said the ship sank, and a video from its armed forces described it overturning and beginning to sink, but another official refused to confirm that.
Ukrainian officials said that their forces hit the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet with missiles overnight, with one saying Thursday it sank. Russia said the Moskva was badly damaged by a fire that forced the warship’s evacuation but that it was still afloat, AP reports.
The loss of the warship named for the Russian capital would be a major military and symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after retreating from much of the north, including the capital.
Russia did not acknowledge any attack but said a fire aboard the warship, which would typically have 500 sailors on board, forced the entire crew to evacuate the vessel. It later said the fire had been contained and that the ship would be towed to port with its guided missile launchers intact.
The ship carries 16 missiles, and its removal from combat would greatly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. Regardless of the extent of the damage, any attack would represent a major blow to Russian prestige seven weeks into a war that is already widely seen as a historic blunder.
© Copyright LaPresse