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Lost warship hurts Russian pride and naval capabilities

Russia’s loss of its flagship cruiser Moskva marks a dent in the Russian Navy’s operational capabilities and a serious injury to Russian pride at the height of the war against Ukraine, analysts say.

The Moskva River sank on Thursday after an explosion and fire that Ukraine said was a successful missile attack and Russia said was the result of exploding munitions.

If, until the sinking of the Moscow River, no one had good reason to question Russia’s supremacy in the Black Sea during the conflict with Ukraine, these calculations have now changed.

“In symbolic terms, this is a great loss,” said ex-Admiral Pascal Ausseur, director general of the Toulon-based Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES).

The 12,000-ton ship should have withstood a missile strike or more and controlled a fire, but instead went under in just 12 hours, he told AFP.

“It wasn’t planned,” Ausseur said, adding that the Moskva probably houses the command post of the naval group, which now has to find a new home.

The loss of the Moscow River is a blow to Russian military pride The loss of the Moscow River is a blow to Russian military pride Photo: AFP / Vasiliy BATANOV

After successive setbacks for President Vladimir Putin in the 50-day-old war – including an unexpectedly weak air and land combat record – the loss of the Moscow River will also have a real impact on the Russian Navy’s ability to attack Ukrainian targets and protect its fellow combatants.

“Russia is making the same mistakes at sea as she did on land,” said a senior French officer.

The 186-meter (610-foot) cruiser was armed with 16 surface-to-surface Bazalt/Vulcan anti-ship missiles and Fort missiles, which are naval-adapted versions of long-range S- 300 trades Ossa short-range missiles.

According to a telegram post from Sergei Brachuk, a spokesman for the Odessa regional military, it was capable of carrying a crew of 680 and consisted of providing air cover to other ships during their operations, particularly while bombing targets on the coast and landings administration.

But aside from being a major blow to Russia’s military prestige, the loss of the Moskva River is unlikely to be a turning point in the Russian campaign, Western analysts have said.

“The rest of the Black Sea Fleet remains a formidable force,” said Nick Brown of Britain’s intelligence analysis firm Janes.

Russia still has a powerful Black Sea Navy, including modern frigates Russia still has a powerful Black Sea Navy, including modern frigates Photo: AFP / Ibrahim ISHAQ

As examples, Brown cited the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates, with their much more modern air defense suite capable of firing Kalibr precision land-attack missiles.

“The fleet has not been decontaminated,” he told AFP.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a note that the loss of the Moskva River would reduce Russia’s ability to conduct cruise missile attacks, but “is unlikely to deal a decisive blow to Russian operations overall.”

“Moskva’s main mission was probably to conduct precision strikes with Kalibr cruise missiles against targets in Ukrainian hinterland areas, including logistics centers and airfields,” they said.

The remaining force is all the more critical to Russia’s capabilities given Moscow’s inability to send a replacement for the Moskva, while Turkey keeps the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits closed to warships.

Some analysts say this may not make much of a difference at the current stage of the war, where the Russian Navy has played a limited role.

But the loss of the ship could force Moscow to revise any plans to give the navy a bigger role in the future, said Maia Otarashvili of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Russian strategists must ask themselves the uncomfortable question of whether Ukraine has stronger defenses against a naval attack than they thought, she told AFP.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked friendly Western governments to provide him with much-needed coastal defense missiles.

“What kind of recently acquired anti-ship missiles does Ukraine have? And what harm can they do to the Russian Navy?” She asked.

Another consequence is that Moscow is now much less likely to launch an amphibious assault on a Ukrainian city like Odessa.

“Even before that…the Russians did not have air superiority, which is a sine qua non for launching an amphibious operation,” said a senior French naval officer, who asked not to be named.

“Now they’re less willing than ever,” the source added.

It is unlikely that the full story of the sinking of the Moskva will be known anytime soon, as experts need to examine her hull, which is now somewhere in the depths of the Black Sea.

But it is already clear that the disappearance of the Moskva reveals “a real weakness” in the Russian Navy, Ausseur said.

Whether it was a direct missile impact or an explosion caused by problems on board, they “point to possible Russian shortcomings — either poor air defenses or incredibly lax safety procedures and damage control on the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship,” the ISW analysts said.

https://www.ibtimes.com/lost-warship-dents-russian-pride-navy-capability-3475676?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution Lost warship hurts Russian pride and naval capabilities

Brian Ashcraft

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