Weeks after the sinking of Moskva, Putin received another humiliation with the Admiral Makarov warship, allegedly hit by a Ukrainian missile.
Vladimir Putin’s new flagship was hit by Ukrainian missiles and caught fire off the coast of Snake Island, according to officials in kyiv.
The 409-foot (125-meter) Admiral Makarov was reportedly hit by the same Neptune missiles that sank the Russian missile cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea last month, The Sun reported.
However, Moscow has said it “has no such information” that the ship has been attacked.
The Makarov can accommodate up to 200 crew members. She is armed with 24 Buk medium-range surface-to-air missiles and eight Kalibr cruise missiles, all in vertical cells, and can escort other vessels and also engage targets on land.
The frigate would be Russia’s latest high-profile naval casualty in a troubled campaign, following reports that US intelligence helped Ukraine locate and sink the Moskva weeks ago.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian government and a former minister, said on Twitter: “The Russian ship is on fire. You appear to be one of the newer Russians, Admiral Makarov.
Naval tracking sites claimed a Russian rescue boat was dispatched to the ship’s last known location, and unconfirmed local media reports suggested the ship was on fire.
Ukrainian parliamentarian Oleksiy Goncharenko claimed that the warship was burning, but had not sunk.
He said on Telegram: “The frigate Admiral Makarov, the patrol frigate of the Russian Navy, is on fire.
“Yes, yes, you are right! The god of the seas is taking revenge on the abusers of Ukraine.”
In its daily report on Russian losses, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said another ship had been killed, though it is unclear if it was referring to Admiral Makarov.
According to the Ukrainian government news site Dumskaya, a Burevestnik-class frigate was located at noon Friday local time near Snake Island.
The site said the ship had been hit by a Neptune missile and Russian planes were circling the warship and rescue ships were being dispatched from Russian-annexed Crimea.
Flight trackers show a number of aircraft, including a US Air Force drone, circling over the Black Sea area.
The open source intelligence monitor OSINTdefender tweeted that it “seemed increasingly likely” that reports that the ship had been attacked were “true”.
“Several rescue ships and aircraft are reported to be in the area with US surveillance drones keeping an eye on them,” it added.
The Black Sea could be Putin’s weak point
Putin’s Black Sea Fleet had already been reduced to just three large warships after the sinking of Moskva on April 14.
Any loss of the fleet is disastrous for Moscow, as the only way to bring replacement ships to the Black Sea is through the Bosphorus Strait that bisects Istanbul and is controlled by Turkey. While in peacetime Turkey generally allows other nations’ warships to pass through the canal, since Russia’s invasion it has refused Moscow’s requests to allow its warships into the strait.
There is evidence that Admiral Makarov’s captain had been careful to keep him away from the Ukrainian coast, the Forbes newspaper reported.
The new missile frigate, commissioned in 2017, is believed to be a valuable target for Ukrainian missile crews as one of the most modern vessels in the Russian navy.
A Kremlin spokesman denied any knowledge of the suspected missile attack on the Russian frigate.
“No, we don’t have such information,” Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.
Last month, the Moskva sank in the Black Sea after a fire and explosion.
Moscow lost the 12,490-ton missile cruiser after it was hit by a pair of Neptune cruise missiles fired by Ukraine.
Moskva played a deadly role in the war by shelling Ukrainian towns and cities from positions on the sea. It was thought to be a key weapon in any attempt to take the Ukrainian coastal city of Odessa.
Ukraine is said to have tracked the 186m (611ft) vessel with a drone as a distraction before attacking it with two cruise missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry said the explosions ripped through ammunition stores and started a huge fire.
It follows reports this week that the United States provided targeting data that helped kyiv forces sink the ship, which was a major public relations coup for Ukraine and a blow to Russian forces. However, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the United States did not provide information to attack the Moskva and “was not involved in Ukraine’s decision to attack the ship.”
The Moskva was the largest Russian warship sunk in combat since World War II.