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The Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva returns to port in Sevastopol, Crimea on November 16, 2021. (Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters)

The Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva now rests deep under the Black Sea.

Ukraine claims it hit Moskva with missiles, sinking it. Russia insisted the reason for the sinking was a fire. The United States backed Ukraine’s account on Friday, with a senior defense official saying he believed two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the Russian warship in the Black Sea.

But what does the loss of the Moskva mean for the Russian war effort?

The greatest effect may be on Russian morale. As the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Moskva was one of its most visible assets in the Ukrainian War. Although Moscow carefully handles information about the war in Russia, it will be difficult to hide the sudden absence of such a large ship.

And its loss will raise doubts about Russia’s combat capabilities, whether due to enemy action or accident.

“Both explanations for the sinking of the Moskva point to possible Russian shortcomings – either poor air defenses or incredibly lax safety procedures and damage control on the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet,” the analysts said. Mason Clark, Kateryna Stepanenko and George Barros of the Institute for the Study. of War wrote in their daily war briefing.

Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain, said the doubts went as far as the Kremlin.

“This raises questions about naval proficiency 10 years after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin announced he would restore naval capability, morale and professionalism,” Schuster said.

“It seems he couldn’t keep any of his promises for any of the Russian military services,” Schuster said, noting that Russia had also suffered setbacks on land.

But analysts are divided on the impact the sinking will have on the Russian invasion.

ISW analysts see this as a relatively minor hit, saying the ship was mainly used for cruise missile strikes on Ukrainian logistics centers and airfields. Russia has ground systems and strike aircraft that can do the same, they said.

However, they added that if it was indeed a Ukrainian missile that led to the sinking, the Russian Navy would have to rethink its operations, possibly moving the ships away from Ukrainian territory and adjusting their air defenses.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Moskva’s primary mission was air defense of Russian forces in the Black Sea.

“It will impact that ability, certainly in the short term,” Kirby told reporters.

Learn more about the sinking of the ship here.


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