Russian Warship Moskva Sinks After 'Ukraine's Neptune Missile Strike
The flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, a guided-missile cruiser that became a potent target of Ukrainian defiance in the opening days of the war, sank after it was heavily damaged in the latest setback for Moscow's invasion. Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the vessel with Neptunes missiles, while Russia acknowledged a fire aboard the Moskva but no attack.
The alleged missile attack on the Russian warship has come amid Russian claims of advances in the southern port city of Mariupol as its forces continue bombardment of Ukrainian cities on the Black Sea nearly 50 days after the country launched the invasion. For Russia, the Black Sea is crucial to supporting land operations in the South and East, where it is battling to seize full control of the port of Mariupol. And the news of the sinking of the flagship reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea. Military analysts say Ukraine’s claim that it hit the ship in a missile strike could go down in history as being one of the highest-profile naval attacks since 1941 when German dive bombers crippled the Soviet battleship, Marat, in Kronshtadt harbour.
Russian experts, however, say the development is unlikely to have a major impact on its ongoing “demilitarisation” of Ukraine. “The ship is really very old. Actually, there have been plans to scrap it for five years now. It has more status value than real combat value, and in general, had nothing to do with the current operation. It will have no effect on the course of hostilities,” Russian military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Amid the ongoing war, activities of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea are crucial to supporting its land operations in Ukraine. Russia’s Black Sea fleet is one of its main fleets with its base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. The fleet, which was once a part of the Soviet Union, played a crucial role in Russian operations in Crimea and Syria. In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Maskova of the Black Sea fleet was leading the naval assault. Russia has focussed on dominating the Black Sea from the beginning of the invasion, to connect Russia and Crimea by a ‘landbridge’ by taking the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Before the loss of the Moskva, Russia was also expected to focus its military efforts on Odessa, to the west of Crimea. If the Odessa region were to fall as well, Ukraine would lose access to its entire Black Sea coastline and would in effect be reduced to a landlocked country. That would be a devastating blow to the Ukrainian economy. But the sinking of the Moskva is expected to put brakes— at least temporarily—on an anticipated amphibious assault on Odessa. Russia has two other ships of the same class, the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyag, which serve with Russia’s Northern and Pacific fleets respectively. Turkey, which controls access to the Black Sea via the Bosphorus, will not let them enter at a time of war as Turkey would need to violate Montreux, which it would never do, to allow extra naval vessels to come in
The sinking of the warship Moskva, the 600-foot, 12,500-tonne flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet — whether due to a Ukrainian missile strike or, as Russia claims, a fire on board — is a serious setback for Russia. The reversal is both military and symbolic, proof that its vessels can no longer operate with impunity, and a damaging blow to morale. On the other hand, it lifts Ukrainian hopes, demonstrating the defenders’ homegrown technological capacity, and exposing a weakness in the Russian navy’s anti-missile defences. Stung by the loss of its Black Sea flagship and indignant over what it alleged were Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory Russian forces resumed scattered attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond in an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the whole country remains under threat despite Russia’s pivot toward mounting a new offensive in the east.
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