Explainer: What is the significance of the Moskva sinking?

The Moskva, the warship named in honour of the Russian capital and the pride of the country’s Black Sea fleet, has sunk after a fire on board.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Soviet-era vessel saw service during conflicts in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States.

What happened?
The Russian Defence Ministry says the Moskva was badly damaged by a fire and sank in a storm as it was being towed to port.

It previously said that “a detonation of ammunition” triggered a fire and forced the crew to evacuate.

A Ukrainian official claimed it had struck the Moskva with a Neptune cruise missile after successfully diverting the ship’s radar systems.

The US says it has been able to confirm Ukraine’s claims.

The ship, which would usually have about 500 sailors on board, was thought to be located in the Black Sea somewhere off the Ukrainian port of Odesa at the time of the fire.

What is the significance of the sinking?
The 12,500 tonne Moskva was armed with multiple anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, and was the only ship of its class in the Black Sea. The two other missile cruisers – the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyag – are deployed with Russia’s Northern and Pacific fleets respectively.

The Institute for the Study of War (IOW) says it was not able to verify that Ukraine had sunk the warship, but the Moskva’s loss – regardless of the cause – was a “major propaganda victory for Ukraine”. In contrast, it was likely to undermine Russian morale, the institute said.

In military terms, however, the loss might not be so significant.

IOW says the Moskva was probably mainly used to conduct Kalibr cruise missile attacks on sites including logistic centres and airfields in Ukraine.

“These strikes have been effective but limited in number compared to airstrikes and ground-launched missiles throughout the invasion and the loss of the Moskva is unlikely to be a decisive blow,” IOW said.

Russian military experts have also played down the sinking’s military significance.

“The ship is really very old. Actually, there have been plans to scrap it for five years now,” Russian military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin told the Reuters news agency.

“It has more status value than real combat value, and in general, had nothing to do with the current operation. It will have no effect on the course of hostilities.”

What is the Moskva’s history?
The Moskva was among a group of ships that the Soviet Union designed in the late 1970s to counter US aircraft carrier groups and provide air defence to Soviet vessels operating in distant oceans.

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