The sinking this Thursday of the cruise ‘mosvka’the flagship of the russian navyrepresents a “severe setback” for Putin’s fleet in the region and his greatest material loss so far in the military campaign in Ukraine.
The versions of the incident are contradictory: thus, the Russian Ministry of Defense affirms that the ‘Moskva’ sank in the middle of a storm when it was being towed to port, already without its crew, which had been evacuated in other ships of the Black Sea fleet. The Russian version ensures that the ammunition carried on board the ship exploded due to a fire accidental, the origin of which is unknown.
In turn, the military command of Ukraine points out that the damage suffered by the ship was caused by the impact this Wednesday of two Neptun cruise missilesof Ukrainian manufacture.
Although Moscow has not recognized that enemy fire is responsible for the sinking of the Moskva, this Friday it bombed a military facility near kyiv that manufactured and repaired long-range and medium-range missile systems, as well as anti-ship missiles, in what appears to be retaliation after two weeks since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region.
“Hard setback” for the Russian fleet
Whatever the cause, this episode is a “severe setback” for the Russian fleet in the regionThe Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday, John Kirbywho has affirmed that this circumstance will have “consequences” for his “combat capabilities”, since the ‘Moskva’ is “a key element in their efforts to establish naval dominance” in the Black Sea.
The sinking of the ‘Moskva’, a missile-carrying cruiser, has deprived Russia of its ship with the greatest firepower that it had located in the Black Sea and constitutes its greatest material loss so far in its military campaign in Ukraine, since its value was estimated at 750 million dollars.
Michael Petersonof the Russian Institute of Maritime Studies, has assured the BBC that the warship is a “symbol of Russian naval power in the Black Seaand a “thorn for the Ukrainians” since the beginning of the conflict. “Seeing it so damaged… I think it will be a real morale boost for the Ukrainians.”
However, some experts do not believe that the loss of the ship will have a great impact in what Russia calls a ‘special operation’ on Ukraine, since “the ship is really very old” and Moscow has been “planning to scrap it for five years”, Russian military analyst told AFP Alexander Khramchikhin.
“Have more status value than actual combat and it will have no effect on the course of hostilities,” adds Khramchikhin, who believes that Russia has sufficient resources to maintain a blockade on Ukrainian ports and attack targets with other missile systems.
Heritage of the Soviet era
The ‘Moskva’ was armed with 16 Vulkan anti-ship missiles and 64 S-300F anti-aircraft missiles in eight launchers, in addition to artillery, torpedoes and depth charges and was similar to two other ships of the Russian Navy: the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyagserving in the Northern and Pacific fleets, respectively.
These ships were designed by the Soviet Union in the late 1970s to counter US aircraft carriers and provide air defense for Soviet ships operating in distant oceans, being nicknamed ‘carrier killers’ at the time.
With a length of 186.5 meters, a beam of 20.8 meters and a displacement of 11,490 tons, the ship -which developed a maximum speed of 30 knots- was launched in 1979 and four years later entered service with the Soviet Navy with the name ‘Slava’ (Glory), being renamed ‘Moskva’ (Moscow) in 1995, after the fall of the USSR.
On board it in 1989 the then Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachevtraveled to Malta to meet with his American counterpart George Bush Sr.while the current Russian president, Vladimir Putinhas also held some meetings on board with world leaders.
In the history of ‘Moskva’ there are support missions in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 and the Russian military contingent deployed in Syria.
“Russian warship, go to hell!”
The missile cruiser participated in the capture of the small Ukrainian island Zmiiniy (of the snakes) in the Black Sea on February 24, the day Russia began the invasion. “Russian warship, go to hell!”was the response received by the ‘Moskva’ to its demand for the surrender of the Ukrainian border guard garrison Roman Gribovwho along with 12 companions was captured prisoner.
More than a month later the Ukrainian border guards, who several days after their capture were considered dead, were exchanged for Russian prisoners. By then Gribov’s phrase had already become a slogan throughout Ukraine.
Two days before the sinking of the ‘Moskva’, the Ukrainian Post put into circulation a postage stamp commemorating the response of the border guard to the demand for surrender. The image on the stamp, whose presentation Gribov attended, shows a soldier standing with an automatic rifle who, with his right hand, teach from land to a “peineta” to a warshipwhich represents the ‘Moskva’.
“Sleep in peace, great ship,” he wrote on his Telegram account, Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was based. He added that the “most important thing” is that the crew was evacuated. “For Sevastopol the cruise was a true symbol. And of course we all feel pain today,” the governor said.
No ship the size of the ‘Moskva’ has been sunk during a war conflict since it was the Argentine cruiser ‘ARA General Belgrano’ during the Malvinas Warin 1982.