The Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva rests deep beneath the Black Sea this morning.
Whether it lies there as the victim of Ukrainian missiles, Russian incompetence, bad luck or a combination of all three is unclear.
What caused the sinking? Russia’s Defense Ministry says a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship’s stored ammunition and the resulting explosions left the Moskva with structural damage. It says the warship then sank amid rough seas as it was being towed to a nearby port.
Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles and that these sparked the fire that detonated the ammunition.
When was the last time a ship this size was lost in war? The Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was torpedoed and sunk by the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror on May 2, 1982, during the Falkland Islands war.
What does the loss mean for the Russian war effort? The biggest effect may be on Russian morale. As the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva was one of its most visible assets in the Ukraine war. The biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years will raise troubling questions not only for Moscow, but for military planners around the world.