The Moskva had a crew of around 500 sailors.

The first visuals of Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser, the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, sinking have emerged online. Ukraine had said Moskva’s fate was sealed by a missile strike launched by its forces from the coast last week which ripped open the hulking Soviet-era ship’s hull, while Russia claimed it was a fire and explosions involving ammunition stowed onboard that doomed the vessel.

The Moskva had a crew of around 500 sailors, who Russia said were successfully evacuated to other ships before being returned to their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea on Friday. Ukraine has suggested there are likely to have been fatalities.

NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has said the Moskva’s loss is likely to prompt Russia to review its naval posture in the Black Sea. US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told news agency Reuters that while the sinking would have a symbolic impact and potentially raise questions about Russia’s longer-term naval capabilities, it would be unlikely to have a major impact on the course of the conflict. The Russian navy has so far not played a big role.

One US official said that Russia had only used its warships in a limited fashion, to carry out occasional strikes and resupply troops in the south. Russia retains naval dominance in the immediate region and the Moskva was equipped to destroy enemy vessels at sea, but little is left of Ukraine’s navy.

Some analysts say the Moskva may have helped support a possible Russian amphibious landing in the Ukrainian port of Odesa that has not happened yet because of resistance from Ukrainian forces. Its sinking may be seen in some quarters in Ukraine as reducing the chances of such an assault and allow Ukraine to redeploy some of its forces elsewhere.

Russia has two other ships of the same class, the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyag, which serve with Russia’s Northern and Pacific fleets respectively. Turkey, which controls access to the Black Sea via the Bosphorus, will not let them enter at a time of war.

Designed in the 1970s Soviet Union during the Cold War, it was conceived to destroy US aircraft carriers and had been in service for nearly four decades. It underwent an extensive refit, and according to Britain’s Ministry of Defence, only returned to operational status in 2021. Despite that refit, some of its hardware remained outdated.

The Moskva’s sinking is a bitter loss for the Russian military, as the ship, though ageing, was a symbol of the Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet and of Russian military pride. If it was holed by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, it would be the biggest Russian warship to be lost in action since 1941, when German dive bombers crippled the Soviet battleship Marat in Kronshtadt harbour.

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