The Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday evening that efforts are being made to tow the Moskva missile cruiser back to the port after dousing of the fire that engulfed it. The ministry had earlier said that the blaze broke out after ammunition blew up on board.
Though it did not give information about the cause of the incident, the Ukrainian military claimed it hit Moskva with a Neptune anti-ship cruise missile.
Moskva has a length of 186.4 metres and can cruise at a speed of 32 knots or 59 kmph. The 12,500 tonne ship usually has a crew of around 500.
How important is the Moskva ship?
According to the BBC, the Moskva was built during the Soviet era and entered service in 1980s.
The warship has been previously used by Russia to protect its airbase Hmeimim during the Syrian conflict. It carries 15 anti-ship Vulkan cruise missiles with a range of 700 kilometres, according to Reuters. The warship is also equipped with anti-submarine and mine-torpedo weapons.
The ship can also carry a helicopter.
The Moskva gained notoriety in the early days of the Ukraine war when it called on Ukrainian border troops defending the strategic Snake Island to surrender, only to be defiantly refused.
What about the Moskva’s defences?
The BBC spoke to naval expert Jonathan Bentham from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who said that the cruiser is equipped with a triple-tiered air defence system.
This means that if operating properly, the air defence system will give Moskva three opportunities to defence itself. It is also equipped with medium- and short-range defences and can engage six short-range close-in weapon systems (CIWS).
“If the strike is proven to have come from a missile it raises questions over the capabilities of the modernisation of the Russian surface fleet: whether it had enough ammunition, whether it had engineering issues,” Mr Bentham told the BBC.
What Russia and Ukraine are saying?
Moscow has blamed the blast on Moskva to an unexplained fire onboard, not mentioning anything about a missile strike.
“As the result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser, ammunition detonated. The ship was seriously damaged,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The crew was completely evacuated.”
But Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisor Oleksiy Arestovych shared a video on Twitter showing what he said was Russia’s Moskva cruiser being struck by their Neptune missiles.
Last month Ukraine said it had destroyed a large Russian landing support ship, the Orsk, on the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast of the Black Sea. Moscow has not commented on what had happened to the ship.