Suddenly, we’re in the passive voice


Russian media made a quiet announcement.

Ammunition detonated on the Moskva missile cruiser, the Defense Ministry said.

“As a result of a fire, ammunition detonated on the Moskva missile cruiser. The ship was seriously damaged,” the statement said.

The crew was completely evacuated. The reasons for the incident are being established.

Ah, yes. There was a fire in a warship during a war. We don’t know how the fire could have gotten there. We’re going to have to investigate. Very puzzling. Spontaneous combustion? Gremlins? Who knows?

It’s still floating! It hasn’t sunk! We are inwincible!

Moscow’s defence ministry said the Moskva missile cruiser was still afloat and its main weaponry had not been damaged.

Gosh. We many never know what happened except…

Russian and Ukraine agree that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, its Black Sea flagship, was taken out of commission on Wednesday, but there’s no agreement on how that happened. Russian state-run media, citing the Defense Ministry, said “ammunition detonated as a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser,” the ship “was seriously damaged,” and “the entire crew” of 510 was evacuated. Hours earlier, the governor of Odessa said Ukraine had hit the ship with Neptune anti-ship missiles and inflicted “very serious damage.”

Either way, “one of the Russian Navy’s most important warships is either floating abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbor,” CNN reports. And “whatever the reason for the fire, the analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the U.S. Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today.”

I don’t know about you, but I am persuaded by the side using the active voice and providing a reasonable causal agent.

Comments

  1. blf says

    This Putin-class terror ship was the one told to go feck itself by Ukraine’s Snake Island defenders. It is also the flagship of Putin’s Black Sea terror fleet. Claims are Ukraine (where it was built back in the 1970s) took it out in an absurdly simple manner: It (supposedly) has only one air defense radar, so the Ukrainians distracted it with a(n aging?) drone, whilst firing modern antiship missiles (a Ukrainian design called “Neptune”) at it from the opposite direction.

  2. Matt G says

    Am I a bad person for not caring if a few Russian oligarch yachts make their way to Davy Jones’ locker? As far as I know, their bottoms are not steel plated.

  3. markgisleson says

    Always wondered what it would be like to see someone drown in their own koolaid. It’s not a pretty sight.

  4. says

    The heroic Russian ship successfully intercepted Ukrainian missiles and is now demonstrating its submersible capabilities!
    When it resurfaces it will be deploying our newly developed cloaking device. Hail victory!

  5. billmcd says

    Of course you are, PZ! Active voice carries inherent persuasion, while passive voice is limp, waiting to be given credence.

    You likely also find proper grammar, punctuation, and clear communication more persuasive than incoherent grunts, as well! (Not that there’s anything wrong with incoherent grunts under the right conditions. Some of my favorite memories are full of them. ;) )

  6. moarscienceplz says

    I’m starting to think the adventures of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale were documentaries.

  7. raven says

    Well, this is quite the tragedy.
    It is so sad that the Moskva hasn’t sunk yet.

    Hopefully, the Ukrainians have a few more Neptune missiles to help it find its final resting place.

    Even if it is repairable, that is going to take a while.

  8. wzrd1 says

    It’s still afloat and currently is being towed to a Russian controlled port.
    Warships are notoriously difficult to sink, during a sinkex, they’ll strip the vessel of all machinery, remove hatches and open compartments throughout the ship.
    Still, magazines going up tend to make repairs rather expensive, expensive enough that replacing the ship would be cheaper. They might be able to recover her enough to be used as a training ship.
    I suspect that the smoking lamp will be off for the indefinite future.
    It is rather interesting how many Russian capital ships are only movable when towed. Their only aircraft carrier has a dedicated tug deployed with her, just so when her engines crap out, she can be towed back to port.

  9. says

    “Moskva” is the transliteration of “Москва”. You know, the name of the city that is usually translated into “Moscow”. Why isn’t any news organization calling the ship the “Moscow”? Sounds a bit different when one realizes the ship that was taken out was named after the Russian capital, don’t you think?

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Wait until they sink the missile cruiser “Greater Russia” or “Generalissimo Putin”.

  11. StonedRanger says

    If the failure rate of russian equipment is any indication, they will probably blow themselves up if they try to launch a nuke.

  12. R. L. Foster says

    I am 100% on the side of Ukraine in this war. But, that said, being an old navy veteran myself, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for all of the Russian sailors who were below decks when this event occurred. I don’t believe for a second that they all made it topside and were taken off safely. Especially not if the magazine was set afire.

  13. blf says

    If the failure rate of russian equipment is any indication, they will probably blow themselves up if they try to launch a nuke.

    That are a success comrade!
    It means the glorious nukclars works!
    They are not potatoe.

  14. Susan Montgomery says

    @17. Don’t tempt fate. It’ll be just our luck that that’s one of thr few remaining Soviet Tinker Toys that still works.

  15. whheydt says

    When they get a chance (i.e. when the other bunch will talk to them) the Russian Navy authorities might want to consult with the British Royal Navy about what they learned from the way they lost ships at the Battle of Jutland in WW1. (Ships were lost due to “flash back” from hits that caused magazines to detonate.)

  16. wzrd1 says

    @SC, I saw that a little while ago. Magazine explosions are nasty things! Much of the damage from cruise missiles isn’t directly due to the explosives in the warhead, but from remaining fuel leaking into fractures in the structure of the ship.
    I hope the fish enjoy their new reef.
    Maybe they can get a tug to tow their aircraft carrier to the Black Sea and have it join the ex Slava, now reef Moskva.

  17. says

    R. L. Foster @ #16:

    I am 100% on the side of Ukraine in this war. But, that said, being an old navy veteran myself, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for all of the Russian sailors who were below decks when this event occurred. I don’t believe for a second that they all made it topside and were taken off safely. Especially not if the magazine was set afire.

    Yes, I keep thinking about the accounts of the people who were on the ships in Pearl Harbor. The stuff of nightmares. They just keep repeating the vague claim that the crew was evacuated without giving any numbers of any injuries or deaths, and the only hard number I’ve seen – from other sources – is 54 sailors rescued out of more than 500. Very grim.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    It will be a while before I feel a twinge of sympathy for any Russians. And I have Russian relatives.

  19. KG says

    Am I a bad person for not caring if a few Russian oligarch yachts make their way to Davy Jones’ locker? As far as I know, their bottoms are not steel plated. – Matt G.@3

    The yachts’ bottoms, or the oligarchs’?

    It’s hard to be happy about any of this. Russia will escalate, somehow. – Marcus Ranum@5

    Well, they [or Putin, to be accurate] might. But their response to losing a lot of troops and equipment trying to take Kiev appears to have been to scale back their goals, at least for the time being. Losing the Moscva makes it that much harder for Russian forces to attack Odesa, which so far has escaped the worst of the war.

  20. robro says

    SC @ #23 — Grim numbers indeed, if those prove to be remotely. However, it could be a long time before we get a reckoning of that. Putin and his puppets aren’t going to be very forthcoming with causality figures.

  21. KG says

    R.L.Foster@16, SC@23,

    I thought I’d seen a Russian claim to have evacuated all the crew. Not that one would take it at face value, but a large number of casualties on the Black Sea flagship would be hard to hide for long.

  22. says

    BTW, the Russians are saying that the Moscow sunk while being towed to port, due to a storm. I just took a look at radar in the Black Sea. I don’t see any storms (or even rain). You don’t suppose the Russians are lying, do you?

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    robro @26: If enough dead young Russian men make their mothers mad enough to put a dent in Putin’s sociopathic agenda, their lives were well spent. The ‘grim’ has been going on for Ukrainian men, women and children for nearly two fucking months.

  24. unclefrogy says

    war is a failure.
    like Sherman said “war is all hell.”
    there is no glory in it.
    Ukraine did not chose this and they are doing what needs to be done
    it is a tragedy for everyone it is only good when it is over.
    other news is the purge that is on going in Putin’s Russia at the moment which is linked to the corruption in the government based on raw personal power and the lust for money further indicates the problems with this war.

  25. Susan Montgomery says

    @30. All good points. But I have to invoke the phrase that’s a bane to teachers and parents the world over: He started it.

    He can also choose to stop it. The Russian people can “persuade” him to stop it and every day that passes that they don’t leaves them that much more complicit and less sympathetic.

  26. whheydt says

    Re: SC @ #23…
    Fire and explosion on a ship. I don’t find it credible that the entire crew would have survived. Anyone working below decks near the fire might not get out. Anyone near the explosion would be at very high risk of being killed.

    If one accepts Ukraine’s claim of having hit it with anti-ship missiles, that’s likely to have caused casualties.

    (Side note to general comments… The Moscva was built in the early ’80s. If I’m not mistaken, a big thing at that time was aluminum superstructures. The idea being to keep the upper works light for stability and not armored on the grounds that nothing is going to work against nukes, anyway. Some aluminum alloys that were used burn rather easily, and that was exploited by anti-ship missiles like the Exocet.)

  27. ardipithecus says

    Regarding the reliability of Russian nukes – Russian equipment is working just fine. They are having jellyware problems, not hardware problems.

  28. PaulBC says

    I scratch my head when I read things like this (NYT)

    Ukraine said it hit the vessel, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, with a missile strike. Moscow said the blast was caused by ammunition on the ship.

    OK, so we have a choice between hostile act and incompetence or maybe poor design. Given that this is the “flagship”, maybe Russia should have gone with Ukraine’s account. I don’t see how they look good any way you slice it.

  29. unclefrogy says

    @31
    absof’nlutly that is not in doubt Putin did this. I can see no rejoicing in the ship being sunk with an unknown number of dead. It is the nature of war it is a failure and a tragedy and a long funeral. Princes, Kings generals and supreme leaders make war it is the soldier and the common people who do the killing and dying
    I react to the hate is all. I have compassion for those who must fight for those who die and for those who must kill and for those who are left behind
    war is all hell

  30. microraptor says

    While I firmly believe that this ship was destroyed by Ukrainian attack, the idea that it could have spontaneously caught fire and sunk itself is actually pretty believable. Russian warships are pretty terrible and they’ve lost several in recent years due to accidents while in port or at sea. By all reports, the Russian navy seems to be terrible.

  31. Susan Montgomery says

    @38. It could go either way. Putin is such a pathologicai liar that no one would believe him if he said the sun was up. And even a new, well-maintained ship is a death trap, never mind a relic manned by reluctant conscripts on combat duty for a month and a half.

  32. John Morales says

    microraptor:

    While I firmly believe that this ship was destroyed by Ukrainian attack, the idea that it could have spontaneously caught fire and sunk itself is actually pretty believable.

    How you hold such a firm belief in the face of a supposedly “pretty believable” spontaneous combustion event is beyond me.

    Referencing Wikipedia:

    The damn thing was built and laid down in 1976 (in Ukraine), and commissioned on 30 January 1983 and named Slava.
    Slava returned to Mykolaiv in December 1990 for a refit that lasted until late 1998. Recommissioned as Moskva in April 2000, she replaced the Kynda-class cruiser Admiral Golovko as the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
    In August 2008 […] During a brief surface engagement, the Georgian Navy scored one missile hit on Moskva before being overwhelmed.
    On 3 July 2020, Moskva completed repairs and maintenance which would allow her to remain in service until 2040.

    2022 from 1983, that’s a long while of no spontaneous fire accidents or sinkings.

  33. says

    Original name: Slava
    Recent name: Moskva
    Current name: The Snake Island Memorial Reef

    (Joke from Beau of the Fifth Column).

  34. Tethys says

    The Arizona is still in Pearl Harbor. It too took a direct hit to its ammunition magazine, and is now a war memorial as well as a gravesite.

  35. microraptor says

    John Morales @40: As usual, you show appalling reading compression. Try looking up the statistics on other Russian warships that have been destroyed by fires. Or we could say that during the same time period the ship has also never been hit by a Ukrainian anti-ship missile so by your own “logic” that’s an equally impossible outcome.

  36. John Morales says

    microraptor, my (ahem) compression is that assert you “firmly believe that this ship was destroyed by Ukrainian attack”, and also assert that it’s perfectly plausible that “that it could have spontaneously caught fire and sunk itself”.

    Try looking up the statistics on other Russian warships that have been destroyed by fires.

    Mmmhmm. How about, since you’re making the claim, you provide links to those statistics.

    (Yeah, I know; it’s asymmetric — my google-fu is not weak)

    Or we could say that during the same time period the ship has also never been hit by a Ukrainian anti-ship missile so by your own “logic” that’s an equally impossible outcome.

    How long has this particular war been going on? ;)

  37. John Morales says

    (Also, there are no sanctions since then. Only, um, a special economic operation)

  38. Tethys says

    The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

  39. StevoR says

    @16. R. L. Foster & #23 SC (Salty Current) :

    Agreed. Fire and or drowning, likely many killed instantly in the explosion(s) but then who knows how many others in arguably worse ways later. I don’t accept the Russian “zero casualties, whole crew safely evacuated” line at all and expect many of the Moskva‘s crew lost their lives. Wonder what the actual figures are and if / when we’ll really know?

    FWIW Russian naval crews are a mix of conscripts serving one year terms and volunteers.

    (Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Navy )

    @ 44. John Morales & 45. numerobis : Think it depends how we define this war and whether we include the years of conflict in the Donbas or just the recent month & a bit’s invasion. For me, the question is how much longer will the war(s?) continue and how and when will it end?

    @35. PaulBC :

    From the relevant wikipedia page :

    US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the way the Moskva saga “has unfolded is a big blow to Russia”, forcing “Moscow to choose between two stories. One story is that it was just incompetence, and the other is that they came under attack. And neither is a particularly good outcome”.[62] In contrast, Russian military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin stated that the ship was quite old and “It has more status value than real combat value, and in general, had nothing to do with the current operation. It will have no effect on the course of hostilities.”

    Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_cruiser_Moskva

    The Russian guy is lying I’d say or at least trying to spin. FWIW the Moskva wikipage notes the ship had recently had a refit in 2020 that was meant to see it stay operational till 2040.

    @ 38. microraptor :

    While I firmly believe that this ship was destroyed by Ukrainian attack, the idea that it could have spontaneously caught fire and sunk itself is actually pretty believable. Russian warships are pretty terrible and they’ve lost several in recent years due to accidents while in port or at sea. By all reports, the Russian navy seems to be terrible.

    Famously, they lost the submarine Kursk and all 120 of its crew in 2000 which brought a lot of issues to light and saw Putin deservedly criticised. ( See : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kursk_submarine_disaster) Somewhat less famously, quite a lot of rusting, decomissioned hulks from the Russian navy are now polluting their Arctic coastline if memory serves but can’t think of too many other such episodes esp recently. Although must admit haven’t particularly been paying attention to them.. Going further back in history, the Russian navy does have a rather bleak history with mutinies (eg on the old battleship Potemkin pre- Revolution) and the horrendous voyage to the – for Russia – catastrophic battle of Tsushima in 1905 springing to mind here.. Stopping on the way to almost destroy themselves and sink some British fishing boats in the “battle” of the Dogger Banks. Losing this flagship of the Black Sea Fleet to a few missiiles and a drone or maybe its own incompentence and accident certainly won’t help that navy’s already shabby reputation.

  40. StevoR says

    Wonder if the Russian’s will repalce this lost flagship with their Kirov class battlecrusier? :

    https://www.hotcars.com/heres-why-russias-kiron-class-is-one-of-the-most-dangerous-cruisers-in-the-world/

    Tangential but on the hellish grimly tragicomic voyage to the Tsushima defeat see :

    Drachinfel’s Voyage of the Dammned dry mini-doco here. Over 40 mins long but excellent if staggering informative historical entertainment.

    There’s also a part II here .

    Whilst this 60 minutes exceprt from the Syrian war gives a look at the Moskva itself at the 7 minute mark approx onwards.and goes for 12 minutes total in case folks are interested.

  41. says

    I believe it was a mix of enemy influence and incompetence. The ship was hit by missiles and the crew then botched the damage control measures, leading to it sinking. A parallel to Japanese aircraft carrier Taiho, which was hit by a single torpedo and might have survived that hit if rank incompetence hand’t allowed a raptured fuel tank to spread vapors all over the ship, leading to its destruction.
    Of course, Putin thinking that it’s better to claim that you lost a valuable asset to incompetence and stupidity alone than admit that it was subject to a successful attack says a lot.

  42. Matt G says

    The Russians have promised more missile attacks on Kyiv. Sure sounds like retaliation.

  43. Howard Brazee says

    Which is a bigger condemnation of Russia’s competence?
    1. An enemy sunk our ship.
    2. Our own incompetence sunk our ship.

  44. StevoR says

    @32. whheydt :

    Side note to general comments… The Moscva was built in the early ’80s. If I’m not mistaken, a big thing at that time was aluminum superstructures. The idea being to keep the upper works light for stability and not armored on the grounds that nothing is going to work against nukes, anyway. Some aluminum alloys that were used burn rather easily, and that was exploited by anti-ship missiles like the Exocet.

    Specifically during the Falklands war notably the sinking of the HMS Sheffield :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Sheffield_(D80)

    although actually & just seen here myself :

    The sinking of Sheffield is sometimes blamed on a superstructure made wholly or partially from aluminium, the melting point and ignition temperature of which are significantly lower than those of steel. However, this is incorrect as Sheffield’s superstructure was made entirely of mild steel.[30] The confusion is related to the US and British navies abandoning aluminium after several fires in the 1970s involving USS Belknap and HMS Amazon and other ships that had aluminium superstructures.[31][a] The sinking of the Type 21 frigates Antelope and Ardent, both of which had aluminium superstructures, probably also had an effect on this belief, though these cases are again incorrect and the presence of aluminium had nothing to do with their loss.

    Also :

    Of the 281 crew members, 20 (mainly on duty in the galley area and computer room) died in the attack with another 26 injured, mostly from burns, smoke inhalation or shock. Only one body was recovered.

    @19. whheydt :

    When they get a chance (i.e. when the other bunch will talk to them) the Russian Navy authorities might want to consult with the British Royal Navy about what they learned from the way they lost ships at the Battle of Jutland in WW1. (Ships were lost due to “flash back” from hits that caused magazines to detonate.)

    Specifically, the battlecruisers HMS Indefatigable sunk with only two survivors from her crew of 1,019 men and HMS Queen Mary sunk with just 9 survivors of her 1,275 man crew with HMS Lion very nearly meeting the same fate. (Battle of Jutland – wiki page.)

Leave a Reply