Moskva cruiser fire: What happened?

On April 14, at about 2 am (Moscow time), the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that a fire broke out on board the Moskva missile cruiser, the largest and most powerful warship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. It was also said that the fire caused ammunition on board the cruiser to explode.

"The ship was seriously damaged. The entire crew was evacuated. The causes of the fire are being established," the Ministry of Defense said in a statement quoted by TASS.

The flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva cruiser, retains buoyancy, the Ministry of Defense said.

According to the agency: 

  • main missile weapons of the ship were not damaged,
  • the fire on the ship was contained,
  • explosions of ammunition were stopped.

The cruiser is about to be towed to port, the ministry added.

The Moskva cruiser is one of three Project 1164 Atlant warships that have been built. Russia had plans to build three more cruisers of the project — the October Revolution, the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov and the Komsomolets. The construction of the first two was canceled in 1990, while the last one, being 95-percent complete, was delivered to the Ukrainian Navy after the division of the Black Sea Fleet of the USSR. In addition to the Moskva cruiser, the Russian Navy is armed with missile cruisers Marshal Ustinov and Varyag.

It remains unknown whether the Moskva cruiser will be restored. Representatives for the United Shipbuilding Corporation declined comments.

Outdated, yet powerful warship

The Moskva cruiser has not undergone a full-fledged modernization, unlike the Marshal Ustinov cruiser of the same type, Ilya Kramnik, a specialist for issues of the navy at the Center for North American Studies said.

"The Moskva was undergoing repairs with limited modernization, as they say at times — with elements of modernization. The Moskva did not get a number of modern-day combat systems, nor was it equipped with modern fire extinguishing systems. Perhaps this is one of the factors that affected the ability of the crew to fight the fire,” the expert explained, RBC reports.

The Moskva's incapacitation is unlikely to affect the course of the special operation in Ukraine as most of the hostilities take place on land.

The ship was used as a radar station in the first place to provide radar data to other warships of the Russian naval group. The cruiser had an outdated, but still a rather powerful radar system, Kramnik noted.

"If we assume that the fire on board the ship broke out as a result of enemy actions, then we have an established fact proving that Ukraine receives intelligence information and target designations from NATO countries, the expert believes.

We would like to remind our readers here that Pravda.Ru, as a media outlet, in accordance with the Russian legislation, distributes information on the details of the military operation in Ukraine based on information from Russian official sources.

The Moskva cruiser history

The Moskva missile cruiser is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. It was commissioned in December 1982.

  • The Moskva's displacement is 11,300 tons.
  • She is armed with 16 launchers of P-1000 Vulkan supersonic anti-ship missiles.
  • The ship also carries anti-submarine and mine-torpedo weapons, artillery, air defense systems.
  • The crew of the cruiser, according to information on the website of the Ministry of Defense counts 680 people.

In 2008, the Moskva cruiser participated in military operations in Georgia. In March 2014, the cruiser, together with other ships of the Black Sea Fleet, participated in the blockade of the Ukrainian Navy in the Donuzlav Bay. In 2015, she provided a cover for the aviation group of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria.

In February 2022, during the Russian operation in Ukraine, the Moskva cruiser took part in the mission to take control of the Serpent Island (Ostrov Zmeiny).

"The Moskva cruiser is a powerful ship, but in reality she is hopelessly and deeply outdated. She has an extremely weak short-range air defenses and air defense issues in general," Vasily Kashin, the director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics said.

The cruiser had not taken serious part in the special operation in Ukraine, since the ship was unable to fire its cruise missiles at ground targets, Kashin said. The loss of this ship means a loss only from the point of view of prestige — no practical consequences will follow, the expert added, RBC reports.

Ukraine distributes fake video about Moskva destruction

Andrey Biletsky, the founder of Ukraine's nationalist Azov* battalion (banned in Russia), published a video of a Ukrainian Neptune missile that allegedly hit Russia's Moskva missile cruiser. 

Many mass media outlets republished the video. However, the video is fake. 

Biletsky's video is a mirrored and cut out piece of a Norwegian rocket demonstration, which was filmed nine years ago. The original video was posted in 2013 with a headline Norwegian armed forces destroy marine vessel with Naval Strike Missile. Click the link to watch. This video is from 2013 indeed.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team, Editor: Dmitry Sudakov