Russian and Ukraine agree that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, its Black Sea flagship, was taken out of commission on Wednesday, but there's no agreement on how that happened. Russian state-run media, citing the Defense Ministry, said "ammunition detonated as a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser," the ship "was seriously damaged," and "the entire crew" of 510 was evacuated. Hours earlier, the governor of Odessa said Ukraine had hit the ship with Neptune anti-ship missiles and inflicted "very serious damage."
Either way, "one of the Russian Navy's most important warships is either floating abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin's invasion of his neighbor," CNN reports. And "whatever the reason for the fire, the analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the U.S. Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today."
Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King's College in London, said losing the Moskva would be a "massive blow" for Russia.
"Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov," Russia's lone aircraft carrier, "would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the navy's reputation with the Russian public," retired U.S. Navy Capt. Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, tells CNN.
It is "a significant setback for Russia's war effort, for both military and morale reasons," and the Moskva's demise would "be seen as poetic justice in Ukraine," since it was the warship that told Ukrainian forces to surrender on Snake Island early in the war, only be told to "go f--k yourself," BBC News reports. "In more practical terms, this incident is likely to result in Russian warships having to move further offshore for their own safety," and the Moskva has been a thorn in Ukraine's side since the invasion began, "loitering offshore and menacing" Odessa.