It has been described as a hard blow for the Russians, «more psychological than material damage.»

The Moskva, Russia’s flagship Black Sea missile cruiser, sank after an «explosion» on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed.

The ship was being towed to port when «stormy seas» caused her to capsize, according to a statement.

Moscow has not reported any attacks and says the ship sank after a fire caused the ship’s ammunition to explode.

According to the Ukrainian military, the Moskva was hit with locally made Neptune missiles, a weapon that was designed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The United States described the news as a «major blow», but its officials could not confirm whether Ukrainian Neptune missiles were responsible for the sinking of the ship.

At 12,490 tons, the Moskva is the largest Russian warship sunk in combat since World War II.
The 510-man missile cruiser was an important symbol of Russia’s military might and was leading the naval assault on Ukraine.

Now Russia will have to continue the battle without her flagship, which could be difficult.

A «humiliating» loss

Experts agree that this is a major setback for the Russian forces, both for military and moral reasons.

Most do not doubt that it will further complicate the Kremlin’s ambitions in Ukraine.

«The disappearance of the once mighty Moskva is seen as poetic justice in Ukraine,» explains Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent.

«This incident is likely to result in Russian warships having to move further offshore for their own safety.»

«(The sinking of the ship) will not completely end Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine,». «But it is a powerful symbol that sophisticated weaponry can be used effectively.» Russians now more vulnerable Bielieskov, who advises the Ukrainian government on military strategy, also predicted that «Russian ships will now be forced to move further away from the Ukrainian coast, where they can no longer feel safe.» The Moskva did not fire missiles at Ukrainian ground targets, but military experts told the BBC the ship provided crucial support to other ships that did. The remaining ships in the Russian Black Sea fleet will now be more vulnerable to air strikes, though it is unclear whether Ukraine’s forces, which have suffered multiple casualties, have the resources to take advantage of the situation. «The Moskva was the only ship in the fleet to have long-range air defenses on board,» explains Sidharth Kaushal, a maritime energy expert at the Royal United Services Institute.

The missile cruiser was previously deployed by Moscow to the Syria conflict, where it provided naval protection for Russian forces in the country.

She is the second large ship that Russia has lost since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine.

Admiral Alan West, former chief of the UK Naval Staff, says that as well as being a military coup, the loss of the ship is «very embarrassing».

«She has a big impact,» West said in an interview with BBC Radio 4 before Russia confirmed the Moskva had sunk.

«Putin loves the navy. When he came to power, the navy was the first part of the depleted Soviet forces that he put effort into. He has always had a soft spot for the navy.»

The warship was for many years a «symbol of Russian naval power in the Black Sea,» according to Michael Petersen of the Russian Institute for Maritime Studies.

«The Moskva has been a thorn in the side of the Ukrainians since the beginning of this conflict,» he told the BBC, before adding that seeing it destroyed would be «a real morale boost for the Ukrainians.»

Earlier in the conflict, the Moskva gained notoriety after her crew ordered Ukrainian border troops defending Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender.

The guards refused, radioing a memorable message of refusal that loosely translates to «go to hell.»

Originally built in the Soviet era, the Moskva entered service in the early 1980s and has since become the most feared vessel in the region.

Whether it was by fire, as Moscow claims, or by a Neptune missile, as kyiv alleges, the battle for control of Ukraine snatched that title from him.