According to the Ukrainian version, two Neptune missiles hit it 80 nautical miles from Odessa; according to the Russian version, it was a fire of unknown cause declared in his armory, which broke out. Both versions already assume that the Russian missile cruiser Mockba (read Moskova; Moskva in its English translation) is at the bottom of the sea. There are 24 hours between one version and the other. On the night of April 13, the Odessa Oblast (regional government) reported the sinking of the flagship of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation did not admit the disaster until the night of April 14. The official Russian agency Tass published a story entitled “The Moskva cruiser sank while being towed in a storm”, and assured that “the crew -500 people- was evacuated to nearby ships of the Black Sea Fleet”. But three days later, not a single official or unofficial image, not even a mobile selfie, has shown the sailors alive.
In the midst of the war in Ukraine, characterized by effective propaganda actions and intermittent news blackouts, the sinking of the Moskva is the most mysterious, and also the most important, made of naval weapons, and one of the most important in the modern war history of the Black Sea. Russia has lost much of its power in that sea which was practically their lake in Soviet times. On March 24, the landing ship Orsk was set on fire in the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk. Now it has been destroyed she was one of their three main military power projection ships. Not since the Russo-Japanese war has Russia lost a flagship. She was the battleship Suvorov, riddled by Japanese guns in 1905.
Except for softened official statements, no Russian media has reported the extent of human damage in an issue that Moscow downplays as much as it can. But the informational silence surrounding the whereabouts of the Moskva crew has already unleashed an international stream of memories of another naval disaster with Putin leading the country: the tragic and also silenced, while it was possible, sinking of the Kursk submarine. August 12, 2000. zero survivors.
strong and old
The last time the 20 tubes of the Moskva they fired their Vulcan cruise missiles It was off the coast of Syria, in 2015, in an action without official confirmation. Except for that intervention, and another against the Georgian independence fighters in the summer of 2008, the ship had traveled the Mediterranean and the Atlantic on peaceful institutional visits. He was a showy and strong old man of 39 years. Because of her size and power, she was the Russian flagship in the Black Sea from the beginning.
The Moskva was one of three Slava-class ships – ‘Gloria’ in Russian and Ukrainian; she was the first name of her-which the USSR built as the second largest and most powerful attack ships in its fleet. She displaced 12,000 tons. One brother, Admiral Ustinov, serves in the Russian Arctic fleet, and another, the Varyag, in the Pacific. The launching of the Moskva dates from 1983. She left the Ukrainian shipyards – then Soviet – of Mykolaiv, the same port that she, among others, she now besieged.
His first name, Slava, was changed to Moscow (Mockba) in 1996, four years before the arrival of Vladimir Putin to the top of the Kremlin. They renamed it after the Russian capital because one of its post-Soviet mayors, the nationalist Yuri Luzkov, he had fought so that the cuts due to the ruin of the USSR did not end up dismantling the ship. And when she was renamed she was on her way to a third age, not so much because of the construction date as because of her concept and ailments, which forced her to go through the dry dock several times; the last time, for six years.
But the Moskva had enormous striking power: in addition to the Vulkan supersonic and guided missiles, two large torpedo systems and two other air defense missile systems. The cruiser had been designed to NATO carrier hunter, capable of attacking them 450 miles away. He could also protect himself and a group of ships within a radius of 250 kilometers.
flush with the waves
However, it has not seemed that it served him his powerful box of S300 Favorit anti-aircraft missiles, designed by Almaz Antei, one of the Russian parastatal companies, chaired by the former KGB leader and Putinist oligarch Viktor Ivanov. According to the Ukrainian version, the Neptune missiles skimmed the sea until they hit the Moskva without being detected by the ship.
The European Copernicus satellite surveillance system had sighted the cruiser not far from the island of snakes on April 12, according to monitoring released by the US Naval Institute (USNI). And that is another of the paradoxes of the end of the ship, because it was from that island and that ship, according to the version released by kyiv, that, on February 24, a soldier from the invaded country responded “Russian ship, fuck you”when Moskva officers radioed for the surrender of the island garrison.
That event has been glorified by the propaganda apparatus of the government of Volodimir Zelensky, to the point that on April 13 the Ukrainian president himself presented a special issue of stamps on social networks showing a soldier combing the Russian cruiser. That same afternoon the Neptunes reached their objective, fired from somewhere around Odessa. They are missiles that can be carried by a truck and launched from any point on the coast.
Regardless of the readings about ailments affecting the Moskva, or about a hasty return to service in the summer of 2020, after a series of repairs, various USNI firms and other Western defense think tanks have agreed on a lesson from the catastrophe: With modern missile systems in place, approaching too close to shore is a lethal hazard for any ship, no matter how heavily armed.
Waiting for Putin’s Russia to give information to the world about the fate of the crew of its main ship in the Black Sea, Western analysts who observe the war in Ukraine have entered into conjectures about another possible “Kursk case”. In the naval environment, this is not only the name given to the accident that sank the nuclear submarine, but also to the disastrous refusal after offers of help from NATO countries, and the catastrophic management of information before the families of the sailors.
The newspaper The Kyiv Independentexpanding like other Ukrainian media the echo of a loss that qualifies as “humiliation” for the invading army, this Easter weekend has included an anecdote that impacts the Russian Orthodox and national soul: on the Moskva I was traveling a splinter from the cross of Christ, donated to the ship’s chapel by a Moscow parish. Stamps, famous phrases, relics… Depending on how the Kremlin handles this sinkingAnd if you let the casualties go uncounted, the Moskva case could be on the way to becoming a sentimental wound, typical of a 19th-century war, but stinging in the harsh modernity of 2022.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.