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Sailors Still Battling Fire on Russian Cruiser Moskva, Says DOD Official

The Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva is believed to have experienced an onboard explosion with resulting fire damage, said a senior Defense Department official who briefed the media today.

"We do believe that [the cruiser] has experienced significant damage. Our assessment is that [the crew] still appears to be battling a fire onboard. But we do not know the extent of the damage. We don't know anything about casualties to [the] crew. And we cannot definitively say at this point what caused that damage," the official said.

A ship displaying Russian flags is in water and near land.
The Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva, known as the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, is in Sevastopol, Ukraine, 2012.
Photo By: George Chemilevsky, Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 120410-O-D0439-001C

It is believed that the ship is moving east with an assumption that the cruiser is heading to Sebastopol, Ukraine, for repairs, the official said. At the time of the explosion, it was about 60 nautical miles south of Odesa, Ukraine.

It has been observed that a handful of ships operating in the northern Black Sea have moved south in the wake of the damage to the Moskva, the official said.

There has been some speculation the damage was caused by a missile strike; however, the Pentagon cannot rule out other causes, the official noted.

A ship displaying Russian flags is in water and near land.
The Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva, formerly known as the Slava, is in Sevastopol, Ukraine, 2009.
Photo By: George Chemilevsky, Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 090410-O-D0439-001C

"There's lots of things on a surface combatant that are combustible ... that can cause explosions and cause fires," the official said.

The Moskva has munitions, artillery rounds, missiles, a propulsion plant and plenty of fuel onboard – any of which could explode for any number of reasons, the official said. "Any sailor will tell you, especially a sailor who served on a surface combatant, on any given day that the risk of a fire and explosion is real. And that's why [the Navy] takes damage control and fire prevention so seriously. On every U.S. Navy ship, we consider every sailor a firefighter for good reason," the official said.

The Moskva, commissioned in 1983 as the Slava and renamed the Moskva in 2000, measures about 612 feet in length with a beam, or width, of about 68 feet.

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