A Russian warship which was allegedly attacked by Ukraine has sunk, according to state-owned media.
The missile cruiser Moskva is the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and sank as it was towed back to a port during bad weather after an explosion and fire, according to reports.
Earlier, Russia’s defense ministry said the Soviet-era ship had been badly damaged by a firewhich Ukraine said was a result of its missile strike.
The Moskva’s crew was evacuated onto other ships in the area, Russia’s defense ministry said, admitting earlier that it was badly damaged.
“As a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, ammunition detonated,” it said in comments reported by the Tass news agency.
The cause of the fire is being investigated, the ministry added.
It said later: “The source of the blaze on the Moskva has been contained. The explosions of ammunition have stopped.”
Russian officials have not confirmed reports that the ship was hit by a Ukrainian missile strike and the Pentagon was unable to confirm Ukraine’s claims.
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A ‘symbolic’ event on ‘both sides’
Earlier, Air Marshall Phil Osborn, former chief of UK defense intelligence, told Sky News the Ukrainian version of events – that the fire was caused by a missile strike – was “more likely” to be correct.
The development is “quite symbolic on both sides”, he said, adding that the Moskva is “quite a significant vessel as far as Russia is concerned”.
Presuming the cruiser was indeed hit by a Ukrainian missile, the impact is “less the loss of the ship and more a demonstration of Ukrainian capability”, Air Marshall Osborn added.
The Moskva, which dates from the Soviet era, was commissioned 40 years ago but has since been refitted, Mr Osborn said.
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A missile strike could cause the Russians to “standoff a bit”, he commented, which may have “real implications for any potential assault on Odesa”.
Ukraine claim Neptune missies used
Ukraine media reported earlier that two Neptune missiles, which are anti-ship missiles, were used in the attack but these claims have not been independently verified.
A Ukrainian source told Sky News: “She is on fire. “The level of damage is being clarified… She is about 25 nautical miles from Snake Island.”
Other key developments:
Maksim Marchenko, the governor of Odesa, said on Telegram: “It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!
“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship.
“Glory to Ukraine!”
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His comments about Snake Island refer to an incident earlier in the war – the day after Russia’s invasion began – when the Moskva was one of two Russian ships approaching the patch of land in the Black Sea.
The Russians ordered 13 Ukrainian soldiers defending the island to surrender but the Ukrainians responded over radio, telling the Moskva and its crew to “go f*** yourself”.
At first, it was thought the Ukrainian soldiers had been killed but the country’s navy later said they had been captured alive by Russia.