Update: Russia admitted late Thursday that the warship indeed sank. But it still hasn’t acknowledged that Ukraine attacked the vessel.
Ukraine says it sank Russia’s infamous “Go fuck yourself” warship. Russia says, no, the boat just accidentally fucked itself.
For the moment, there’s no telling who’s right about the fate of Russia’s notorious Moskva cruiser, the feared and mighty flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. The vessel catapulted to fame in the early days of Russia’s invasion in late February after Ukrainian border guards refused the ship’s warning to surrender fortifications on Snake Island with the phrase: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
While it’s not clear who did what, both sides seem to agree that, somehow, that what might be called the curse of Snake Island has now been fulfilled: The ship has sunk.
Maxim Marchenko, the Ukrainian governor of the Odessa region, was quick to say Ukrainian forces hit the ship with a Neptune anti-ship cruise missile.
“It has been confirmed that today the Moskva missile cruiser went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!” Marchenko wrote on Telegram Wednesday. “Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship. Glory to Ukraine!”
Alexey Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, then said the ship sank.
Russia, on the other hand, originally offered up an entirely different explanation: A mysterious fire broke out onboard and reached ammunition stores, which exploded. Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that the cause of the fire is “under investigation,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Russia admitted that the ship’s crew of 500 has been evacuated. But it said the ship “maintained buoyancy,” and that the fire was “localized.” Russia claimed that attempts are now being made to tow the ship to a local port.
In February, initial press reports indicated that the entire contingent of Ukrainian servicemen on Snake Island had been killed after delivering their crude message. But it later emerged that the soldiers had been captured. They were then freed in a prisoner exchange.
The sinking of the Moskva hands Ukraine a psychological and propaganda boost at a time when Russian forces have been driven back from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and are thought to be preparing for a new, massive, bloody assault on the eastern Donbass region. The Moskva is now the largest naval ship to hit the bottom since World War 2, according to the New York Times.
Before Russia confirmed that the ship went down, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday that the damage to the Moskva represented a “big blow to Russia,” the Associated Press reported.