Ukrainian Anti-Ship Missiles Struck The Russian Cruiser Moskva: U.S. Officials
A clearer picture of what caused the sinking of the cruiser Moskva is starting to emerge.
A senior U.S. defense official has told The War Zone that Ukrainian forces did hit Russian Navy’s Project 1164 Slava class cruiser Moskva with a pair of domestically-developed Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, directly contributing to its sinking in the Black Sea yesterday. There had been multiple earlier reports indicating that American authorities were increasingly confident in that assessment.
Much about the exact circumstances of the loss of the Moskva still remains murky, including whether or not it was indeed being towed back to port in the middle of a storm when it actually slipped below the waves, as Russian authorities have asserted. Regardless of the specific circumstances, if Ukrainian forces were indeed directly responsible for destroying the flagship of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet, as seems increasingly likely to have been the case, it would be the most significant naval combat loss in four decades, as you can read more about here.
Separately, overnight, Russian forces conducted a missile strike targeting the Vizar Zhulyany Machine-Building Plant, a missile and aviation-related enterprise in Kyiv. Authorities in Russia said this was in retaliation for reported Ukrainian cross-border attacks and that there were more strikes on targets in and around the Ukrainian capital yet to come.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Before diving into the latest news below, The War Zone readers can first get themselves fully up to speed on the state of Russia's war in Ukraine through previous rolling coverage here.
POSTED: 3:50 PM EST—
The Washington Post's Dan Lamothe wrote on Twitter earlier today that a senior U.S. defense official had provided confirmation of the Ukrainian missile strike on Moskva to multiple reporters in the halls of the Pentagon earlier today. Multiple other outlets subsequently reported this news, as well.
The Washington Post had already reported late yesterday that a senior U.S. official had confirmed that the Ukrainians did attack Moskva, but that individual could not say at that time what type of weapon had been employed. Reuters separately reported late yesterday that a senior U.S. official had said it was highly likely that the cruiser sank after a Ukrainian attack, but that conclusive evidence of this might prove elusive under the circumstances. CNN reported earlier today that a source said the U.S. government had only "medium confidence" in the Ukrainian military's claims that it severely damaged the ship with two Neptunes.
U.S. government assessments about what happened to the Moskva and its fate had already evolved significantly before the Russian Ministry of Defense had even admitted that it sunk. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby had initially said there were indications that the cruiser was still able to move under its own power after an initial fire and explosion, but told reporters later in the day yesterday that it was no longer possible to make that determination.
Kirby had also said that the U.S. military had access to unspecified imagery of Moskva at some point during the incident, which could have come from multiple sources, including manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft operating in the region or spy satellites. Intercepted communications and other electronic intelligence have almost certainly contributed to the various American assessments regarding what happened to the cruiser.
A synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite image from commercial provider Sentinel Hub appears to show the Moskva after the reported attack, according to Naval News. Stormy weather in this part of the Black Sea has prevented satellites with more traditional cameras from grabbing imagery of the ship.
Russian authorities claim to still be investigating the circumstances that resulted in the Moskva's sinking and have not provided any official statements on whether any members of the crew were killed or injured. Anton Gerashenko (Herashchenko), an advisor to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, Denys Monastyrsky, said that the ship's captain, Anton Kuprin, had died, but this remains unconfirmed at the time of writing.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense has assessed that the sinking of the Moskva represents the loss of an important air defense and command and control node for Russian naval forces in the region. British officials also highlighted that this is the second confirmed loss of a major Russian naval vessel since the conflict began, the other being the Project 1171 Alligator class landing ship Orsk that was destroyed in the port of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov in March. Ukrainian claims to have struck that ship remain unconfirmed.
Russian cruise missiles struck areas in Kyiv overnight, with Russian officials saying today that they had specifically targeted the Vizar Zhulyany Machine-Building Plant. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that it employed Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Buyan-M class corvette in the Black Sea in this strike.
This is the latest Russian missile strike targeting important elements of Ukraine's domestic defense industry across the country. Vizar is a state-owned enterprise that traces its roots back to the Soviet era and is responsible for various missile and aviation-related work, notably including the production of components for the Neptune anti-ship missile.
Vizar has also contributed to the production of S-300-series surface-to-air systems. The Ukrainian military's S-300s have been an important factor in the country's continued ability to prevent Russian forces from gaining superiority after more than seven weeks of fighting. The Slovakian government just recently transferred an additional S-300 system to Ukraine to help bolster its air defense capabilities.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that it carried out this strike on the Vizar plant specifically in retaliation for reported Ukrainian cross-border attacks in recent weeks and that it planned to step up strikes on targets in and around Kyiv. Just yesterday, Russian authorities said that Ukrainian helicopters had struck a village in the Bryansk region, but this remains unconfirmed. Officials in Kyiv had denied responsibility, further claiming that authorities in Russia were seeking to create a provocation.
Video emerged today reportedly showing Russian air defenses in the Belgorod region in action, possibly in response to another attack. The Belgorod region is also where Russian officials said Ukrainian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters had struck a fuel depot on the night of March 31-April 1. The exact circumstances surrounding that incident remain unclear.
Ukrainian officials say they are bracing for a surge in Russian strikes following the loss of Moskva, as well. In light of this and the strikes overnight, the governor of Ukraine's Kyiv region has warned residents who have fled against returning. This could have an impact, at least in the near term, on future visits to the Ukrainian capital by foreign officials, a number of which have occurred recently, as well as the reopening of various Embassies.
Local authorities say that at least 900 civilians have died in the Kyiv region since Russia's military launched its all-out invasion in February. This includes deaths as a result of alleged war crimes in areas that had been under Russian occupation. The Ukrainian National Police says it is currently investigating 3,000 individual war crimes allegations.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense has released its latest map showing its assessment of the current extent of Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has released an official video that it says should various electronic warfare systems being employed in support of operations in Ukraine. This includes footage of a Krasukha-4. Back in March, Ukrainian forces captured a relatively intact example of the command post component of that system, representing a significant loss of one of Russia's most capable electronic warfare assets, as you can read more about here.
A picture, seen below, has emerged showing what appears to be a knocked-out T-72 tank with "WOLVERINES" written in English on the barrel. A BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle was seen with similar graffiti earlier this month and both instances are all but certain to be references to the 1984 American movie Red Dawn, as you can read more about here.
The picture below shows just one example of a multitude of instances where the turrets on Russian tanks have completely flown off after being struck by various anti-tank weapons now in the hands of Ukrainian forces.
The U.S. government has assessed that the conflict in Ukraine could continue at least through the end of 2022, according to a report from CNN.
The independent Center for Information Resilience says satellite imagery of an area near the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in southern Ukraine shows the digging of large grave sites. This would seem to be most likely related to civilians killed in the course of the conflict and comes as evidence has continued to grow that Russian forces have been deliberately targeting non-combatants in Ukraine, including through arbitrary executions in occupied areas.
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