Photos circulating on social media over the weekend appear to show the Russian Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Moskva devastated by an explosion and on fire before it sank on Thursday.
The photo purported to show the Russian warship listing heavily to its port side, with smoke billowing from a possible fire around its conning tower.
A two-second video shared on Monday morning provided a short glimpse of what appeared to be Russian tug boats pulling the damaged warship along.
An additional photo showed the damaged warship from another angle, raising the likelihood that the photos do in fact show the Moskva and are not images taken out of context from some prior, unrelated incident.
The Russian military confirmed the cruiser Moskva (which means Moscow) sank on Thursday, but did not specify the cause. It had confirmed earlier that a fire had taken place on the ship and blew up munitions onboard.
The Ukrainian military has said its forces struck the Moskva with a pair of domestically-produced R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. A senior U.S. defense official agreed with the Ukrainian military’s assessment in a statement reported by the New York Times on Friday.
In a Friday interview with CNN, retired Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard said his sources in Ukraine told him Ukrainian forces flew a drone on the opposite side of the Russian warship to distract it before firing the pair of Neptune anti-ship missiles.
In a statement reported by the Russian state-run TASS news agency on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said, “During the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the designation port, the ship lost stability due to hull damage, sustained during the detonation of ammunition because of a fire” adding.
“Amid the heavy storm, the ship sank,” the Russian military statement added.
The short video of the Russian warship being towed didn’t appear to show particularly rough waters. The weather could have changed as the Moskva was being towed, but that is not clear.
The Russian military also emphasized that the crew of the Moskva was evacuated to nearby Black Sea Fleet ships. The Russian military did not provide any assessments of casualties from the explosion that damaged the ship.
A claim has circulated on social media that Russian Vice Adm. Igor Ossipov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — for which the Moskva served as the flagship — had been arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) after the ship sank.