The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet sank Thursday while it was being towed back to port following an explosion overnight that forced an evacuation of the crew.
The missile cruiser “Moskva” lost its stability due to the damage the hull received during a fire that erupted after a detonation of ammunition aboard the ship, according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense
“In conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank,” the ministry said, according to a report by the Tass news agency.
The circumstances that led to the explosion are in dispute. Ukrainian officials claimed to have struck the Moskva with a locally-made Neptune anti-ship missile. Russian military officials said the detonation was a result of a fire aboard the cruiser.
The stricken ship was reportedly heading to the Sevastopol naval base on the occupied Crimean peninsula when it sank. The crew was evacuated to other Russian ships in the Black Sea area, according to Tass.
Pentagon officials said they didn’t have specific information about the cause of the explosion but said they had no reason to dispute Ukraine’s account of what happened.
Whether it went down as a result of a missile strike or an internal explosion caused by a fire, the loss of the Moskva remains one of the most significant naval incidents in decades.