The Moskva, a Russian warship central to Moscow’s attack on southern Ukraine has sunk, Russia’s defence ministry has said.
The Russian military had said earlier today that the Soviet-era ship had been ‘seriously damaged’ by a fire.
The ministry said the blaze set off some of the ship’s weapons and forced the crew to evacuate.
However, the Ukrainian military claimed the large fire was the result of a successful missile strike.
Russia’s defence ministry said the damaged ship sank while being towed to a port in stormy weather.
The flagship of the Black Sea fleet, the Moskva was central to controlling the Kremlin’s naval front and carrying out strikes on port cities like Odesa and Mariupol.
The vessel made headlines when a Ukrainian soldier was filmed saying ‘go f*** yourself, Russian warship’ as its crew threatened to shell Snake Island at the beginning of the conflict.
A Ukrainian official said two Neptune missiles were launched from the same island yesterday and struck the vessel.
Other pro-Kyiv sources said the ship was engulfed by fire and on the verge of sinking but this was unverified.
US and other Western officials could not confirm Ukraine’s claims of striking the warship.
The loss of Moskva is a major military setback and will most likely be a devastating symbolic defeat for Moscow as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.
The ship carried 16 long-range cruise missiles, and its loss will greatly reduce Russia’s firepower in the Black Sea.
Now entering its eighth week, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled because of resistance from Ukrainian fighters bolstered by weapons and other aid sent by Western nations.
In the past couple of weeks, Putin’s troops have been retreating from the north of the country, including the capital.
The move is thought to be in preparation for a renewed assault on the Donbas region.