(breitbart) – Five days after the Russian cruiser Moskva was reportedly struck by Ukrainian cruise missiles and sunk, the first pictures of the ship while burning appear to have made it to social media, showing the warship heavily listing as she takes on water.
While the events surrounding the loss of the Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser of the Russian navy and the flagship of their Black Sea fleet, remain unclear, one thing that both sides agree on is that the ship burnt last Wednesday, and sank the following day. Now for the first time there are pictures of the ship taken between the time the fire broke out and it sinking in the public domain that appear potentially genuine.
Leaked to the wider world through the Telegram social media platform, the Daily Telegraph reports, at least one image and one short video appear to have emerged, both apparently taken from the same ship alongside the Moskva at around the same time.
While little can be said for certain from the images, certain inferences can be drawn with some confidence. Taken in daylight, at least two ships are attending the Moskva, which is belching heavy black smoke. One of those standing off the Moskva’s starboard quarter appears to be a seagoing tug.
The condition of the Moskva itself may be telling. There is evidence of an impact site, which would lend credence to Ukraine’s missile attack claims — already acknowledged as “plausible and possible” by the Pentagon last week — roughly amidships.
Interestingly, the external paint of the Moskva appears to be in good condition outside of the primary blast area. As seen during the Falklands War, for instance, a fire raging inside a ship heating the steel of the hull is enough to burn off the paint covering it, which will have a much lower combustion point of the metal. The fact this isn’t present suggests the fire is was not yet well established at the time of the picture, had never burned hard, or that internal damage control teams were extremely effective.
Yet in the images seen, the Moskva appears to be totally abandoned. This sits well with Russia’s claims immediately after the burning of the ship became known on Wednesday that it had been completely evacuated. Yet this also implies efforts to fight for the ship were extremely limited.
Indeed, neither of the ships near the Moskva in these pictures are spraying it with water, and the only attempt at damage control visible is unattended hoses rigged on the aft tower spraying fore and aft, presumably for cooling.
As Breitbart reported last week, Russia admitted the Moskva subsequently sank while under tow. What casualties the attack on the ship caused have been speculated upon in Western media, with reports of unclaimed cars belonging to the ships’ company lined up in Crimea, and even a headcount of Moskva sailors parading on land at the weekend showing it hundreds of men short.
Russia has not yet moved from its position that the explosions onboard the Moskva were caused by a fire of indeterminate origin, the cause of which will be determined by an investigation. That will no doubt now be considerably hampered by the fact the primary evidence is now at the bottom of the Black Sea.
It remains the case the Russian state must decide whether it is more damaging for its prestige abroad, and for its credibility with its own citizens, to lose ships to Ukraine or lose ships to spontaneous explosions.