First photographs showing the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet flagship, cruiser Moskva, burning after a Ukrainian missile strike have emerged online.
The ship, with a complement of more than 500 sailors, was apparently targeted by at least one R-360 Neptune shore-based anti-ship missile launched by Ukrainian forces on April 14.
The ship sank completely later in the day while being towed to Sevastopol, Crimea, for evaluation and repairs.
Images apparently showing the Moskva before its demise indicate that the ship sustained a missile strike to its bow, while black fires point to possible subsequent fires on board. The ship is also visibly listing to its port side.
The images that emerged online do not appear to show sailors on the ship’s deck. It is entirely possible that sailors were either fighting the fire or trapped in the ship’s compartments. It is also worth noting that rescue rafts cannot be seen on the ship, indicating they have been used in the evacuation of the ship.
Reports coming out of Russia following the sinking said the ship sunk while being towed in a storm. The photos apparently showing the aftermath of the missile strike do not appear to show unfavorable weather conditions.
While Russia continues to deny the missile strike, saying the loss of the ship was the result of a fire outbreak onboard, US officials have corroborated Ukrainian claims of a Neptune missile strike.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyi has even promoted Ukrainian Navy commander Oleksii Neizhpapa to the rank of Vice Admiral, “for a brilliant operation that everyone already knows about.”
In Russia, on the other side, video of a ceremony held to commemorate the loss of the cruiser has generated a lot of discussion, with the footage apparently indicating only around 50 crewmembers had survived the sinking. The Russian defense ministry is yet to come forward with the death toll from the incident.