With the Russian flagship Moskva hit by Neptune anti-ship missiles, the war appears to be taking a poor turn for the Black Sea Fleet.
Russian Flagship Seriously Damaged
The Rusian cruiser and Black Sea flagship Moskva was hit by two Neptune anti-ship missiles on April 13th, according to the Ukrainian government. The Russian MoD has claimed that the ship has been seriously damaged by fires and an ammunition explosion, with full evacuation of its 510 crew, though no reference was made to a Ukrainian strike. Distress signals were reported from the vessel.
Moskva is a 12,000 ton missile cruiser, launched in 1979 as the Soviet warship Slava. The vessel was reinstated as the flagship of the Black Sea fleet in 2000, after a 10-year refit spanning the first decade of post-Soviet Russia. It is the largest military vessel in the Black Sea.
Various reports indicate that the cruiser was operating in rough seas at the time of the strike, and may have been distracted by a Ukrainian drone while being targeted by shore-based anti-ship missile batteries.
The Moskva was originally intended to operate against US aircraft carriers, and carries 16 P-1000 Vulkan supersonic anti-ship missiles. These present a rather large target for incoming fire. Moskva also carries 64 S-300F Rif air defence missiles, which are rather more useful for the Russian military in this conflict, and contribute to the air defence screen around Crimea and Sevastopol. Judging by these reports, Moskva may be a total loss.
Analysts recently noted that the Moskva had fallen into a predictable pattern of movements. During the first weeks of the war, the Moskva participated in naval ‘demonstrations’ towards Odessa, escorting multiple smaller vessels and landing craft in feint attacks towards the coastline, in order to divert Ukrainian land forces to a coastal defence role (particularly on the 15th and 30th of March). During the very first week, Moskva participated in the capture of Snake Island, as well as the blockade of Odessa. Amphibious assaults in this region may have been deterred by minefields laid by the Ukrainians; several such mines have since drifted southwards towards the Dardanelles.
A Russian Orlan-10 drone was shot down near the combat fronts between Mykolaiv and Kherson. Explosions were also reported at Kherson airport.
The Russian Ministry of Defence claims to have fully secured Mariupol port. The remaining Ukrainian defenders (comprising soldiers from the 36th Naval Infantry Brigade and the Azov Brigade) appear to have withdrawn to the Azovstal industrial plant, believed to be a heavily fortified location. Yesterday’s partial surrender was confirmed in a statement by the defenders.
Russian attacks continue towards Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, and Velyka Novosilka.
Ukraine claims to have shot down two aircraft over the Kharkiv region. Footage is not yet forthcoming. In general, there has bee less footage from the East Donbas sector of the conflict recently, though this should not be taken as indicative of any reduction in the intensity of fighting.
A bridge north of Izyum was destroyed, as Russian vehicles were crossing.
Relentless Russian shelling continues in outlying districts of Kharkiv.
Footage shows Ukraine firing a new DANSA 152mm self-propelled howitzer.
In addition, a large shipment of US military equipment was declared recently, including 1,100 Switchblade ‘loitering munitions’.
At least 20 RM-70 MLRS systems have been shipped to Ukraine from the Czech Republic.
While the location is unknown, the following footage shows a Russian BM-21 Grad MLRS system destroyed by a US-supplied Javelin ATGM.
Russia has claimed that a border checkpoint near Kursk was shelled by Ukrainian troops. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian border checkpoint in Chernihiv oblast was allegedly attacked with small arms and grenades. The future of this borderline remains uncertain following the Russian withdrawal, with dispositions of both forces unclear.
Russia has stated that it will ‘begin to target Ukrainian decision-makers’, including President Zelensky, and command centres in Kiev if Ukrainian forces ‘continue to attack Russian territory’.
Sweden and Finland Accelerate NATO Talks
In a joint press conference, the Prime Ministers of Finland and Sweden discussed joining NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Either or both countries may aim to apply before the next NATO summit in June.
Both countries have long remained non-aligned, however the war in Ukraine has revealed a stark disparity in the strength of conventional weapons wielded by NATO and Russia; the threat of Russian non-nuclear aggression towards Finland or Sweden would appear to be greatly diminished following the country’s struggles in Ukraine. Conversely, the benefits of NATO alignment have been shown clearly by the effectiveness of NATO-supplied weapon systems in Ukraine.
Were these countries to join NATO, however, they would have to commit significantly more public funding towards defence spending. The invasion of Ukraine has seen a windfall for the military-industrial complex, with German pledging an additional €100 billion, and other Western nations reappraising their defensive needs. This could prompt the beginning of a cautious arms race.
Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence, mil.ru . CC-SA-4.0.