(Adds info on ship’s sinking)
International Desk, Apr 14 (EFE).- The Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday reported that the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, the missile carrier Moskva, sank in a storm as it was being towed into port, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.
Earlier, Ukrainian army sources had said that the guided missile cruiser had been hit by two Neptune anti-ship missiles, causing several explosions on board and a large fire.
According to the Russian official version, the sinking came about “due to damage to the hull caused by a fire caused by the detonation of ordinance.”
During the course of the day, and as Kyiv was releasing reports saying the vessel had sunk, Moscow had said that the fire and ammunition explosions had been brought under control but that the approximately 500-man crew had abandoned ship.
The Russian sources, on the other hand, said that the ship’s main armament – and it carries 16 missile tubes – had not been damaged.
Meanwhile, the Odessa City Hall said on its official Telegram account that the damage suffered by the ship had been “significant” and that, despite the fact that other Russian naval units tried to aid it, “a storm and a powerful explosion of munitions blew up the cruiser and it began to sink.”
A source with the US Defense Department had said that Russia was moving to the south “at least half a dozen” vessels it had deployed in the northern Black Sea after the damage suffered by the Moskva.
Late on Wednesday night, the Russian Defense Ministry had said in a statement: “The fire on the cruiser Moskva is under control. There are no flames visible. Ammunition supplies are no longer exploding,” adding that “The cruiser Moskva is still afloat. The main missile armory has not been damaged.”
The ministry said that the ammunition had detonated as a result of a fire, never mentioning anything about a Ukrainian attack, and that “The causes of the fire are currently being established.”
“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship. Glory to Ukraine!” Odessa governor, Maksym Marchenko, said via Telegram.
“It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!” he added.
The Moskva was defied by Ukrainian troops on Snake Island, who told it to “go to hell” at the start of the war Russia launched against Ukraine on Feb. 24. Shortly thereafter, that contingent of border guards was reportedly killed by Russian naval artillery, but then it emerged that actually they had been taken prisoner.