After first reports emerged late Wednesday of Ukrainian forces targeting the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet flagship, cruiser Moskva (121), the Russian defense ministry has now confirmed that the ship is on fire.
The Russian defense ministry says the ship experienced a “serious mishap,” leading the crew to abandon the ship. The statement said a fire broke out aboard the ship, leading to a subsequent explosion. The defense ministry did not say what caused the fire.
Ukraine, however, says it hit the cruiser with a Neptune shore-based anti-ship missile strike. Ukraine has a small inventory of these missiles, which it started receiving in 2021. The shore-based missile system can target cruisers, destroyers and frigates with anti-ship rockets at ranges of up to 300 kilometers.
More recent, but unconfirmed, reports say the cruiser has already sunk following the incident.
Reports coming out of Ukraine say the ship was distracted by the flight of a Bayraktar TB-2 UAV while being targeted by the Neptune missile system. The anti-ship missiles are said to have been launched somewhere from the coastline between Odessa and Nikolaev.
Update: The Russian defense ministry confirmed the cruiser sank while being towed to Sevastopol, Crimea, for evaluation and repairs.
“During the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the port of destination, the ship lost its stability due to damage to the hull received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition. In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank,” Russian media reported the defense ministry as saying. Kremlin has not confirmed that the ship was hit by an attack from Ukraine, saying the cause of the fire onboard was under investigation.