File photo: The Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Moskva. Photograph:( Reuters )
Russia has claimed that the fire on Moskva erupted due to ammunition explosion while Ukraine has claimed that the ship was a target of a rocket attack
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Russian defence ministry confirmed late on Thursday that country's guided-missile cruiser Moskva had sunk in the Black Sea after getting damaged during a military operation against Ukraine.
Ukraine had claimed it struck the flagship with missiles but Russian authorities attributed the sinking to ammunition explosions.
"While being towed ... towards the destination port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank," the state news agency TASS quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying. It said the crew was evacuated.
Watch | Russia-Ukraine war: Russian Flagship 'Moskva' sinks in Black Sea while being towed to port
The ministry had said earlier that fire on the Moskva had been contained and that the ship was afloat. Earlier on Thursday, there were various claims and counterclaims as to what caused the fire on the ship. Ukraine said the ship had been hit in a rocket attack while the Russian side had maintained that the fire broke out as ammunition on the ship blew up. The defence ministry had earlier said that the ship had been badly damaged due to the fire.
Moskva was the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet.
Big blow to Russia: Pentagon
The Pentagon said on Thursday that the sinking of Moskva was a "big blow" to Russian naval strength in the Black Sea.
"This is a big blow to the Black Sea fleet, this is... a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
"This is going to have an effect on their capabilities."
Kirby said the US could not confirm the exact cause of the ship's demise.
"We're also not in any position to refute the Ukrainian side of this," he added. "It's certainly plausible and possible that they did in fact hit this with a Neptune missile or maybe more."
(With inputs from agencies)