Russia says flagship of its Black Sea fleet has sunk

Photo: Vasily Batanov/AFP via Getty Images

Russia's defense ministry said Thursday that the Moskva cruiser, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, sank while being towed in a storm due to damage incurred in a fire, according to Russian state media.

Why it matters: The loss of the Moskva is a devastating symbolic blow to Russia on the 50th day of its invasion of Ukraine. It's the largest military vessel to sink in decades.

The big picture: Ukraine claimed it struck the 610-foot Soviet-era vessel with cruise missiles on Wednesday.

  • Russia's defense ministry claimed the fire on the cruiser started after the detonation of ammunition on board.
  • A senior U.S. defense official said earlier Thursday that the Moskva had experienced "significant damage" and was heading east while continuing to battle a fire on the cruiser. The official could not confirm the cause of the explosion.
  • It's unknown if there were any casualties. Russia's defense ministry said it evacuated the ship's approximately 500 crew members on Wednesday.

Between the lines: The Moskva was involved in one of the famous early exchanges of the war, when Ukrainian border guards defending Snake Island told the warship to "go f*ck yourself" in response to a call to surrender.

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