Without Moskva ship, Russia must move away from Ukraine coast

A blow to the Russians, “a harm that was more psychological than material”. This is how the wreck of the missile cruiser Moskva, the main ship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, has been classified after she was hit by an explosion on Wednesday (13).

At 12,500 tons, it is the largest Russian warship sunk in combat since World War II. The vessel with a capacity of 510 crew members was a symbol of military power and led the naval part of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Although Vladimir Putin insists on several occasions that his “special military operation” in Ukraine is advancing successfully, “as planned”, “it is a very big symbolic loss,” said retired French Admiral Pascal Ausseur, director general. of the analysis center Fundação Mediterránea de Estudos Estratégicos (FMES).

“It’s a 12,000 ton vessel that sank in 12 hours […] This is not normal,” he told AFP.

Jenny Hill, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, says the sinking of the Moskva is a “significant and humiliating” loss for the Russian president. “What was once a symbol of Russia’s power and ambition is now at the bottom of the sea,” said the journalist.

But for Mykola Bielieskov of Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, the damage is “more psychological than material”.

“Russian ships will now be forced to move away from the Ukrainian coast, where they can no longer feel safe,” he explains. But the sinking “will not completely end Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine,” he explained, who advises the Ukrainian government on military strategy.

The Moskva did not fire missiles at Ukrainian land targets, but military experts told the BBC the vessel provided crucial support to other vessels that did.

She was the only ship in the fleet to have long-range air defenses on board, explained Sidharth Kaushal, a maritime energy specialist at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

As a result, the other ships in the Russian fleet will now be more vulnerable to air strikes — although it is unclear whether Ukraine’s forces, which have suffered numerous casualties since the start of the war, have the resources to take advantage of the situation.

“Moskva has been a thorn in the side of the Ukrainians since the beginning of this conflict,” said Michael Petersen of the Russian Institute of Maritime Studies. For many years she was a symbol of Russian naval power in the Black Sea.

A column of dark smoke is seen on a ship that would be the Moksva - Reproduction/Telegram - Reproduction/Telegram

A plume of dark smoke is seen on a ship believed to be the Moksva

Image: Reproduction/Telegram

With its armament, the cruiser fully protected a diameter of 150 km around her, explained Nick Brown, a specialist at the British private information institute Janes. “With Turkey blocking Russian ships in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, it will be difficult for Russia to replace its air defense capability,” however, “the remainder of the Black Sea Fleet remains an important force.”

Especially with the modern Admiral Grigorovich-type frigates, equipped with more advanced anti-aircraft defenses than those of the Moskva, despite a shorter range, and with Kalibr land-attack missiles.

The Slava-class cruiser was the third-largest active ship in Russia’s entire fleet and one of its equipment with the best defense system, said Jonathan Bentham, a naval expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She was equipped with a three-layer air defense system that, working properly, provided three opportunities for protection in the event of a Neptune missile attack.

In addition to medium and short range defenses, he could also activate six close defense weapon systems as a last resort.

“The Moskva must have 360 ​​degree air defense coverage. The CIWS (Close Defense Weapon System) system can fire 5,000 rounds in a minute, essentially creating an artillery wall around the cruiser, its last line of defense.” explains Bentham.

If the attack is proven to have come from a missile, “it will raise questions about the modernization capabilities of the Russian surface fleet: whether it had enough ammunition, whether it had engineering problems.”

“Essentially, in theory, this three-layer air defense system would be very difficult to get right,” the military expert added.

to Maia Otarashvilifrom the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRIin the acronym in English) in Washington, the involvement of the navy russian in war it was quite limited. AND now Ukraine may have demonstrated that it has naval defense capabilities that were not considered by Moscow. “What kind of missiles anti-ship has Ukraine recently achieved?”, pointed out he.

“It’s a fairly small sea, everything is within range of anti-ship missiles, and their detection is very simple,” he added. Ausseur. Therefore, the loss of Moscow “reveals a true vulnerability” of the navy russian.

In the UK’s assessment, the sinking of Moskva is the second considerable loss for Russia during the war in Ukraine, which could force it to “review its maritime posture”.

British intelligence points out that on March 24, the Alligator-class ship Saratov was also rendered useless. The Saratov was hit by a great fire and destroyed, but did not sink.

According to The New York Times, the Moskva sinking is the most important naval loss since 1982, when Argentina sank the British military ship Sheffield and hit other vessels in the Falklands War.

nuclear impact

In addition to the political and military loss, a possible nuclear impact has not been ruled out.

On Facebook, Andrii Klymenko, project manager at the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Black Sea, drew attention to the possibility of two nuclear warheads being on board the Moskva.

“This may be news to many, but it is a ship that carries nuclear weapons,” he pointed out.

Klymenko draws attention to the need to find the alleged warheads and understand where exactly the explosion took place on the ship. (With BBC Brasil and international agencies)

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