(Warsaw) The cruiser Moskvaflagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was “severely damaged” by an ammunition explosion caused by fire, Russian state agencies reported Thursday, citing the Defense Ministry.
“Due to a fire, ammunition exploded on board the guided missile cruiser Moskva. The ship was badly damaged,” according to the ministry quoted by Tass and Ria Novosti agencies.
The crew was fully evacuated and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire, he added.
Russian agencies did not specify the location of the incident.
The Ukrainian authorities had previously claimed that the Moskva was on fire after being hit by missiles.
“Neptune missiles protecting the Black Sea have caused significant damage to this Russian ship,” said Ukrainian governor of the Odessa region (south), Maxime Marchenko.
An adviser to the Ukrainian president, Oleksiï Arestovitch, for his part declared on YouTube that “a surprise has arrived at the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet”.
“He burns with intensity. Now. And with this rough sea, it is impossible to know when they will be able to receive help,” he said, assuring that “510 crew members” were on board.
“We don’t understand what happened,” he added.
The cruiser Moskva participated in the first days of the invasion in an attack on Serpents’ Island, located in the Black Sea near the Romanian border, during which 19 Ukrainian sailors were captured. They had subsequently been exchanged for Russian prisoners.
Commissioned in 1983 as Slava, the cruiser was later renamed Moskva. Equipped with sixteen P-1000 Vulcan anti-ship missile launchers as well as a variety of anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons, it was assigned in the second half of 2015 to the eastern Mediterranean to protect the Russian air base at Hmeimim, in Syria, according to the Tass agency.