US official backs Ukrainian claims missile hit sunken Russian warship Moskva

The comments back up claims from the Kyiv government, which have been denied by Russian officials, who claimed a fire broke out on board the guided-missile cruiser, causing munitions aboard to explode.

Pentagon officials had previously said they could not confirm the Ukrainian claim, but they also did not refute it.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows cruiser Moskva in port Sevastopol in Crimea on April 7, 2022. (AP)

The senior US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment, said the Moskva was hit by at least one, and probably two, Neptune missiles on Wednesday, creating the large fire aboard.

The official offered no further details beyond saying the US believes the Russians suffered some number of casualties aboard the ship.

The Moskva, named for the Russian capital, sank while being towed to port on Thursday after taking heavy damage.

The loss of the ship, which became a potent target of Ukrainian defiance in the opening days of the war, represents an important victory for Ukraine and a symbolic defeat for Russia.

The Russian missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russias Black Sea Fleet is seen anchored in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, \, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the ship was damaged Wednesday, April 13, 2022, but not that it was hit by Ukraine.  The Ministry says ammunition on board detonated as a result of a fire whose causes were being established, and the Moskvas entire crew was evacuated. The cruiser typically has about 500 on board. (AP Photo, Fil
The Russian missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is seen anchored in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, in 2008. (AP)
The sinking reduces Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea and seemed to symbolise Moscow’s fortunes in an eight-week invasion widely seen as a historic blunder following the Russian retreat from the Kyiv region and much of northern Ukraine.

“A ‘flagship’ Russian warship is a worthy diving site,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted on Friday.

“We have one more diving spot in the Black Sea now.

“Will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war.”

Britain’s defence ministry said the loss would likely force Moscow to change the way its naval forces operated in the Black Sea.

In an update posted Friday on social media, the UK Ministry of Defence said the Soviet-era ship, which returned to operational service last year after a major refit, “served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node”.

“Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia’s Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on March 24,” it said.

“Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.

In his Thursday night video address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sinking as he told Ukrainians they should be proud of having survived 50 days under attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to the sinking as he told Ukrainians they should be proud of having survived 50 days under attack. Credit: CNN (CNN)

Listing the many ways Ukraine has defended against the invasion, he noted “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea.

It was his only reference to the missile cruiser.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the ship sank in a storm while being towed to a port.

Russia earlier said the flames on the ship, which would typically have 500 sailors aboard, forced the entire crew to evacuate.

Later it said the blaze had been contained.

The Moskva had the capacity to carry 16 long-range cruise missiles.

Now entering its eighth week, the invasion has stalled amid resistance from Ukrainian fighters bolstered by weapons and other aid sent by Western nations.

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During the first days of the war, the Moskva was reportedly the ship that called on Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender in a standoff.

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