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Did Russia’s Moskva Warship Carry Nuclear Weapons? Experts fear that this is possible

Russia received a major blow on Thursday when Ukraine’s military announced it had sunk the pride of its Black Sea fleet, the Moskva. Unfortunately, that victory may have come at a dangerous price, as experts fear the Moskva may have been carrying nuclear missiles.

On Friday, Ukrainian experts began speculating that the missile cruiser, the Russian Navy’s flagship in the Black Sea, may have been transporting nuclear-tipped missiles while threatening the coast near the city of Odessa. Given this possibility, several called for an international investigation into the possibility that the Moskva went down with warheads on board.

Andrii Klymenko, an expert at Ukraine’s Institute for Strategic Studies on the Black Sea, wrote on Facebook that at the time the Moskva sank, there were two nuclear warheads on board. Klymenko did not directly cite the source of his information about “friends” and “experts,” but the possibility was addressed less positively by other Ukrainian analysts.

Mykhailo Samus, deputy director of the Lviv-based Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, said on his Facebook page it was possible the Moskva might have carried nuclear weapons. He suggested that when the ship sank, the warheads were stored separately from conventional ammunition but could remain intact.

The Moskva is a storied warship that first entered service with the Soviet Navy in 1979 as the Slava. During the Cold War, the ship was known to carry nuclear weapons on board, and the Russian military has stationed weapons systems capable of firing both conventional and nuclear missiles on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

But reality remains unclear as to whether the Moskva would carry nuclear weapons while patrolling the Ukrainian post.

For its part, the Defense Department cast doubt on claims that the ship sank with nuclear weapons on board, according to two senior officials who spoke to CNN. However, the Pentagon confirmed its belief that a Ukrainian missile sank the Moscow River, contradicting Russia’s claims that it sank at sea during a storm.

Those concerns should not be taken lightly, a day after the CIA warned of the risk of Russia using a tactical nuclear bomb to make up for its battlefield failures. Later that evening, the Russian embassy in Washington DC sent a letter to the State Department warning of “unpredictable consequences” if the US does not stop arms sales to Ukraine.

Russia has insisted on using nuclear weapons only in self-defense against an existential threat, but has indicated they remain an option. After Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine, he warned the West against interfering lest it provoke “consequences unprecedented in history” and ordered his nuclear forces to go on full alert.

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Brian Ashcraft

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