This morning, the Russian guided-missile corvette Moskva is resting deep beneath the Black Sea. Ukraine claims that it fired missiles at Moskva, causing it to sink. Russia has insisted that the sinking was caused by a fire. On Friday, the US backed Ukraine’s account, with a senior defence official saying that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles struck the Russian warship in the Black Sea.
It is unclear whether the ship is at the bottom of the sea as a result of Ukrainian missiles, Russian incompetence, bad luck, or a combination of the three. What is certain is that the largest wartime naval ship loss in 40 years will raise serious questions not only for Moscow, but for military strategists around the world.
What caused the ship to sink?
On Thursday, the ship went down in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine. Ukraine claims it fired anti-ship cruise missiles at the Moskva, igniting the fire that detonated the ammunition.
Russia has issued its own account of events: According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship’s stored ammunition, causing structural damage to the Moskva. The warship then sank in rough seas while being towed to a nearby port, according to the report.
The crew of the ship was delivered to the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, according to a report by Russian state news agency TASS, which cited an unnamed source. TASS did not provide any additional information on the number of crew members who were rescued from the ship.
The Moskva was outfitted with a variety of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as torpedoes, naval guns, and missile defense systems, implying that it was armed with massive amounts of explosives.
Two senior US officials with the expertise of the latest US intelligence assessment told CNN that US intelligence sources do not believe the ship was carrying nuclear weapons at the moment of its sinking.
When was the last duration a ship of this size perished in battle?
During the Falkland Islands war, the British hydrogen submarine HMS Conqueror torpedoed and sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano on May 2, 1982.
The General Belgrano and the Moskva were both about 600 feet (182 metres) long and displacing 12,000 tonnes, though the General Belgrano’s crew of about 1,100 was more than double that of the Moskva’s crew of about 500.