50 days after the start of the Russian invasion, the war in Ukraine enters a crucial new phase

The flagship of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, the cruiser Moskva, is seen in a satellite image off Crimea on April 10. (Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies)

One of the Russian Navy’s most important warships floats abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a blow for an army battling Ukrainian resistance 50 days after Vladimir Putin invaded its neighbor.

Russian sailors evacuated the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, after a fire blew up munitions on board, Russian state media reported on Wednesday.

State media TASS and RIA, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, said the Moskva was badly damaged in the incident and the cause of the fire was under investigation. The Russian reports gave no information about possible casualties.

But hours earlier, a Ukrainian official claimed the Russian warship had been hit by cruise missiles fired from Ukraine.

Due to major storms over the Black Sea obscuring satellite imagery and sensory satellite data, CNN was unable to visually confirm that the ship was hit or its current condition, but analysts noted that a fire on board such a ship can result in a catastrophic disaster. explosion that could sink it.

Whatever the reason for the fire, analysts say it strikes hard at the hearts of the Russian Navy as well as national pride, comparable to the US Navy’s loss of a battleship in World War II or an aircraft carrier today.

“Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov (the only Russian aircraft carrier) would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the reputation of the navy with the Russian public,” Carl Schuster said. , a retired captain in the United States Navy and former director of operations at the Joint Intelligence Center of the US Pacific Command.

“Massive Blow”: Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College London, said the loss of the warship would be a “crushing blow” for Russia.

“Vessels operate far from public view and their activities are rarely the subject of news. But these are great floating chunks of national territory, and when you lose one, a flagship no less, the political and symbolic message – in addition to the military loss – stands out precisely because of that,” he said. he declares.

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