On the first day of the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian battleship Moskva approached Snake Island in the Black Sea, an outpost manned by Ukrainian soldiers. What happened next quickly became the stuff of wartime legend and just weeks later was commemorated on a Ukrainian national stamp:
Having inspired an enduring moment of Ukrainian resilience, the Moskva — or the Moscow, in English — has now become a symbol of Russian wartime incompetence.
Russian state media has confirmed that the vessel, the flagship of the country’s Black Sea fleet, sank on Wednesday as it was being towed to port, supposedly during a storm. (Its roughly 500 crew members were previously evacuated.) The Moskva had been badly damaged on Wednesday under mysterious circumstances; Ukraine says it struck the ship with two Neptune cruise missiles, while Russia, whose reputation for veracity is, of course, unmatched, claims a fire led to the detonation of ammunition onboard. Neither version of events reflects well on Russian forces that have committed blunder after blunder over the course of this invasion.
On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed Ukraine did in fact sink the Moskva, making it the biggest wartime destruction of a ship since World War II. It’s also a major coup for the country’s armed forces as they fend off a renewed Russian onslaught from the east.
The Moskva, which carried nuclear weapons during the last years of the Soviet Union, was actually built in Ukraine. Perhaps it’s fitting that its life has ended where it began.
This post has been updated.