Ukraine, sunken Moskva: the role of the largest warship in Russia’s Black Sea fleet

186 metres, 12.500 tons, 750 million dollars. The missile cruiser that should have taken the Russian army to conquer Odessa is now destroyed: the Defence Ministry acknowledges a fire on board, Kiev claims Ukrainian military struck warship with missiles.

It was the most important warship of Russian military fleet: it should have taken the Russian army to conquer Odessa. The slava-class missile cruiser Moskva -186 metres, 12.500 tons, in service since 1982 for the URSS marine army – is now destroyed.

The news was given by the Russian Defence Ministry in the night between 13rd and 14th Aprile:  “As a result of a fire, ammunition exploded on the Moskva missile cruiser. The ship was seriously damaged”, he said in a statement. Later, Moscow stated that the missile cruiser “lost its stability and sunk while being towed to port because of stormy sea conditions”. Kiev has denied this version and claims the attack of the Moskva as its own: the ship was hit on Wednesday with two cruise Ukraine missiles.

The ship – valued 750 million dollars – was buit in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv in the Soviet-era and named Slava. After a first decade of activity, it underwent repairs from 1990-1999 in the same yard of Mykolaiv. It was recommissioned as Moskva in April 2000 and became the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

The ship hosted President Vladimir Putin and then-Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi during a 2003 visit to Sardinia.

The missile cruiser carries 16 P-1000 Vulkan anti-ship missiles as well as an array of anti-submarine and mine-torpedo weapons.

With the loss of the cruiser Moskva to Russia, 56 cruise missiles remain in the Black Sea distributed on five ships and four submarines: this is the estimate of Andrei Klimenko, expert at the Institute of Strategic Studies on the Black Sea. In fact, there were 16 cruise missiles out of 72 on board.

It is difficult to know what did not work. The Moskva should have had 360-degree anti-air defence coverage, Bentham explained. It is the CIWS system that can fire 5.000 rounds in a minute.  In 2018, Flot Prom (the news site on defense in Russia) had talked about serious problems with the fire suppression system.

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Giuseppe Giacalone

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