Spontaneous combustion for the win!

You know that Russian flagship that mysteriously caught fire yesterday? Well, it sank.

The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet sank after an attack from Ukrainian forces triggered a “significant explosion” as the vessel floated off the coast of Ukraine, U.S. officials said Thursday, with Moscow offering a competing claim about the cause of the destruction.

The alternative explanation from Moscow (which has acknowledged that it sank) is that…it caught fire.

Personally, I think the Ukrainian military has been drafting gremlins.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Personally, I think the Ukrainian military has been drafting gremlins.

    “These Russian missile cruisers don’t go off unless you hit them juuuuuuuuuuuust right.”

  2. R. L. Foster says

    Russia: No, it wasn’t Ukrainian missiles, it was just a tragic accident that caused the fire that sank the ship. But we’ll punish you for our own incompetence anyway.
    BTW, we’re moving the rest of our fleet farther out to sea just because.
    All clear?

  3. StevoR says

    As pointed out in the other thread, either the ship was attacked and sunk by Ukrainian missiles or destroyed by its own incompetence and failures – neither one looks looks good for Russia.

    under twelve minute analysis of the ship the missile and the events here. The BBC has this :


    & also this :


    noting :

    But Mr Bielieskov, who advises the Ukrainian government on military strategy, did predict that “Russian ships will now be forced to move further from the Ukrainian shore, where they can no longer feel secure.”

    The Moskva didn’t itself fire missiles at Ukrainian land targets, but military experts told the BBC that it offered crucial support to other vessels that did.

    The remaining vessels in Russia’s Black Sea fleet will now be more vulnerable to aerial attacks – although it’s not clear that Ukraine’s depleted forces have the resources to take advantage of this.

    “The Moskva was the only ship in the fleet which had long-range air defences on board,” said Sidharth Kaushal, a sea power expert at the Royal United Services Institute.

    “While smaller vessels were conducting bombardments of Ukrainian cities, the Moskva was providing them with wide-area air cover.”

    I expect the Russians – who have blown their credibility on this – are also lying about casualties too and have likely suffered a heavy loss of life along with the Moscow as well. Putin apparently has a soft spot for the navy – and ironically one of the ships being built in the same class was going to be named the ‘Ukraine’ (Ukrayina) according to another youtube clip I saw a bit of just now.. (Moskva Cruiser: What You Need To Know by H I Sutton – Covert Shores.)

    Another big worry, of course, is what Putin is likely to do now to get revenge..

  4. robro says

    StevoR — “…what Putin is likely to do now to get revenge…” Missile attacks on Kyiv were reported this morning.

  5. nomadiq says

    Official Russian statement: our ship sunk because of a munitions fire. Ukraine for sure did not sink it… We will make Ukraine pay by firing cruise missiles into Kyiv suburbs.

  6. ffakr says

    Far as I understand, the entire timeline went like this.. (Moscow version)

    We had a fire.
    ..fire in ammo compartment
    ..ordnance went off but it’s no big deal. Under control.
    ..ship evacuated, everyone is ok. Going in for repairs.
    ..ship sank while returning to port (being towed) due to violent seas (weather reported 14km/hr winds).

    Ukraine MUST PAY FOR THIS.. we should level Kiev and destroy all their rail lines…
    .. this was a terrible accident.

  7. whheydt says

    Apparently, the air strike on Kyiv over night was on…the factory that makes Neptune anti-ship missiles.

  8. says

    This is still graduated response. Note that Ukraine would be reasonably justified in launching raids up into Russia, to destroy military targets, logistics-points, train lines, etc. Of course that would be escalation and of course Russia would freak out. But in terms of “rules of war” (an increasingly pointless and squishy concept IMO) commando raids or bomber raids would be justified.

    I hope things don’t go that way, because I hope this war is contained and local even if that means Ukraine suffers most of the damage. This is a proxy war between nuclear powers, which is why everyone’s tiptoeing around trying to figure out where the line that says “too far” is. Meanwhile, Israel just launched a bunch of missiles against the Syrian military, claiming that they were actually Iranians, and nobody gave a shit.

  9. Rich Woods says

    @Marcus Ranum #10:

    Over the last six weeks Ukraine has made two attacks on military targets in Russia (or at least just two which have been confirmed). Whether today’s attack on Kyiv will prompt further specific action is anyone’s guess, but it does look like Ukraine’s preferred strategy is primarily to defend wherever possible, and otherwise to demoralise the Russian forces and undermine civilian support for Putin’s laughable ‘special military operation’.

  10. fishy says

    When does the bad news get to be to much for Putin? There were stories of an insular and ignorant Putin but this seems to be a proven lie.
    His war is not going well and I think he knows this. His choices seem somewhat limited. What will his humility allow?

  11. says

    “Russia sends US formal diplomatic note: stop arming Ukraine”
    More escalation coming. “Says you and what army?” is a problematic response. Situation is going to get worse.

  12. raven says

    When does the bad news get to be to much for Putin?

    Good question.
    No one knows.
    Putin can always fight to the last Russian though. It’s not directly hurting him all that much. Russia has a very long history of regarding human life as cheap. The famines, the Gulags, the 25 million dead in World War II. A few tens of millions dead here, a few tens of millions dead there, and it all adds up to…who cares?

    His war is not going well and I think he knows this.

    Of course he does. All he has to do is watch TV (not Russian TV) or get on the internet and read Reddit or FTBs.

  13. says

    It was a missile ship. I’m just imagining the fire fighting crews going “if any of that solid propellant ignites, I am swimming for Istanbul!” Holy shit what a terrifying scenario. Some high explosive involved, too. Whole lotta nope.

    Maybe Russia will send Kuznetsov and they can make a neat artificial reef.

  14. raven says

    His choices seem somewhat limited.

    This gets to the heart of the issue.

    .1. Putin’s choices are far greater than Ukraine’s.
    They are facing genocide right now. I can see why they fight so hard. They don’t have any choice. The Ukrainians live in Ukraine and have no where to go. It’s clear that the Russians want to erase the Ukrainians and they say so often at the highest levels. They often claim that Ukrainians don’t even exist, they are just Russians speaking an inferior dialect.

    .2. Putin could just go for a negotiated settlement recognizing that Crimea is Russian and call it good.
    Crimea was Russian until Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in the 1950s for no obvious reason except that Khrushchev was Ukrainian. Russia does have a good territorial claim. I suspect that if they had asked nicely, Ukraine might have transferred it back after the USSR fell.

    .3. Putin has all the choices right now.
    We and Ukraine have to make it cost more to continue the war than to end it.
    I can’t even guess how much that cost would be though.

  15. ffakr says

    ““Says you and what army?” is a problematic response.”

    Yes, though in the conventional (army) sense it’s increasingly a valid tactic.. since Russia is decimating their own Army. Putin is effectively neutering his own country in his attempt to pursue his dream of a reconstituted Russian Empire.

    Obviously, the thing we’re terrified of is a nuclear strike, and I wouldn’t put it past him to use a ‘low-yield’ nuke (low-yield as in, Hiroshima-ish) if he really felt threatened.. like if Ukraine was able to push back Russian forces and actually invade Russia (in a tangible, boots on the ground way). I don’t expect he’s going to start a nuclear war with the US though, unless he really feels backed into a corner.. at risk of loosing his grip on power & decides to burn everything to the ground on the way out.

    But that raises another question.. would his subordinates comply if it was clear he’s gone fully over the edge?
    I assume Russia’s nuclear infrastructure is probably not completely dissimilar from ours. I doubt they control their nukes like a Bond Villian would from a Volcano lair. I’m guessing the launch orders go out, there’s a verification process, and then human ‘grunts’ in direct control of the devices have to turn the keys and push the buttons.
    Putin still holds power because few are willing to be the first to step out of line. The only way he gets deposed is if a large enough mass of people in authority feel things have gotten so bad that they can trust each other to conspire against him.
    Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist but I hope that ‘lets all die together in nuclear fire’ might be enough for everyone from his yes-men to the key-turners to say.. ‘nope.. we’re all done, and now you’re done too’.

  16. says

    @raven #18

    Russia has no claim to Crimea whatsoever. After 1990 Russia signed a treaty, the Budapest Memorandum, that it would respect Ukraine’s borders in exchange for their nuclear arsenal. If they wanted to press any territorial claims, that was when they had the opportunity. The violent seizure of Crimea in 2014 was illegal as it broke that very agreement, so they can go and get bent.
    Arguing about Chrushchev is also fully irrelevant as he was ousted long ago and all of his ethnically Russian successors didn’t see fit to reverse that decision, so why should anyone care?

  17. says

    I’m just glad it wasn’t a Kirov class cruiser. Moskva is powered by gas turbines, the Kirov class is powered by two nuclear reactors. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s ever been a case of a nuclear reactor going down in a shallow inland sea. I just hope the Russians were clever enough to remove any nuclear weapons before it sank.

  18. raven says

    Russia has no claim to Crimea whatsoever. After 1990 Russia signed a treaty, the Budapest Memorandum, that it would respect Ukraine’s borders in exchange for their nuclear arsenal.

    Ukraine gave up 5,000 nuclear weapons for a guarantee backed by Russia, the USA, and the UK that we wouldn’t attack Ukraine.

    And how well did that work? The USA and UK didn’t invade Ukraine. Russia did.
    2 out of 3 isn’t bad.

    I’d say the Budapest Memorandum didn’t work and is now as dead as the warship Moskva.

    You can say all you want that Russia has no claim to Crimea. Right now they own it and aren’t going away. That isn’t even the question here.
    The question now is whether Ukraine and Ukrainians will survive as a people and a nation.

  19. whheydt says

    Re: Markus Ranum @ #17…
    Turkey has closed to Bosphoros to all warships of belligerent countries. So unless the Kuznetsov is already in the Black Sea, it isn’t going to get there unless Putin wants to seriously tick off Erdogan.

  20. numerobis says

    Technically, Russia isn’t lying when they say it caught fire. It definitely did.

    The reason it caught fire is almost certainly that it got hit by anti-ship missiles.

  21. PaulBC says

    Weird news from Business Insider via Yahoo. A relic of the ‘true’ cross went down with it. I am not sure why this is any more newsworthy than saying the captain was wearing a St. Christopher’s medal (though that might actually be newsworthy as unlikely in the Orthodox Church). Anyway, there is it, and I guess it’s news ’cause somebody wrote it. Indiana Jones, suit up for diving!

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    … I think the Ukrainian military has been drafting gremlins.

    Nobody has to draft gremlins – they always eagerly volunteer!

  23. unclefrogy says

    that is another positive step does it include supply ships as well? Does this count as the box closing in?

  24. blf says

    whheydt@24, “Turkey has closed to Bosphoros to all warships of belligerent countries.”

    Not quite correct. Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has to allow warships which are “home-ported” on the Black Sea to pass, even when otherwise closed to warships. I do not know where the Admiral Kuznetsov is “home-ported”, but that’s largely not-relevant, as it’s currently in drydock at Murmansk. (Apparently, like France’s infamous Charles de Gaulle, it’s very accident-prone and tends to break down a lot; allegedly, the Kuznetsov is always(?) accompanied by an ocean-going tug, in case of yet another breakdown.)

    unclefrogy@29, The Montreux Convention is messy and I have no idea if “supply ships” are included in the ban (or can be included). I believe — but could be mistaken — merchant ships are not included (nor can they be included), suggesting “supply ships” are allowed to pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits.

    One amusing example of the Convention’s messy nature is “aircraft carriers” larger than 15,000 tons are not allowed — at all. (As I currently understand it, there is no such tonnage limitation on any other warships.) However, the Kuznetsov (c.50,000 tons) was built in Ukraine, and so was classified as an “aircraft-carrying cruiser” so it would be allowed to transit the Straits. The hull of the never-completed sister ship of the Kuznetsov was sold to Big China, who do classify the eventually-finished ship (Liaoning) as an “aircraft carrier”.

  25. KG says

    A relic of the ‘true’ cross went down with it. – PaulBC@27

    It hardly matters: bits of the true cross have miraculously multiplied to such an extent you could build an entire fleet out of them!

  26. nomdeplume says

    @27 @32 Guess they should have been wearing a relic of the true Noah’s Ark…

  27. fentex says

    I see a U.S military source has said their intelligence confirms it was two Ukrainian missiles that did it (and that they have imagery).

    I had a friend making the credible suggestion the Moskva may have tried to use one of it’s Shipwreck missiles (those tubes on it’s sides) to attack a target and it exploded on launch – it seems the level of incompetence and poor maintenance Russia is constantly exhibiting.

    But no – it seems likely the story that a swarm of drones was used to distract Moskva from the one guiding Neptune missiles onto target is reality.

    Another superbly executed propaganda coup by Ukraine. Unfortunately the ship told to go fuck itself, didn’t, but got fucked up anyway.

  28. JimB says

    Right now the whole world “knows” Russia has nukes. But I gotta figure Putin is looking at his army being stopped or pushed back in most of Ukraine. And now his prize warship has been sunk (or promoted to submarine).

    He may be raging mad right now but I don’t think he’s stupid. He’s gotta be wondering if his nukes will launch. And won’t blow up on launch or soon after.

    He might give the order to launch and all of a sudden the whole world knows Russia is no longer a nuclear power. And I think that would be the start of a very bad day for Vlad.

  29. whheydt says

    Re: KG @ #32…
    A gentleman I know in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) who uses a Moorish personna, says that there is an old Near Eastern joke that goes…
    Q: Why are there no longer any cedars in Lebanon?
    A: Because every Frank (European) in Christendom has a piece of the true cross.

  30. says

    He might give the order to launch and all of a sudden the whole world knows Russia is no longer a nuclear power.

    More like if he gives that order, Russia gets hit with a massive US nuclear strike.

  31. says

    Uh, no. The Ukrainian-developed Neptune missile had nothing to do with the destruction of the Moskva. It was the curse put upon it the first day of the war.

    It’s just common sense.

  32. says

    @17: It could be worse. When the ship was commissioned (under another name) in 1982, the missiles (depending on which modification was used) might have been liquid-fueled…

    One irony is that the Neptun is a Ukrainian homebrew variant of the Soviet AS-20 Kayak (aka the “Harpoonski”) that started development at about the same time the Moskva was commissioned, entered production a little over a decade later… and was designed for attacking smaller targets, half the size of the Moskva.

  33. unclefrogy says

    he has to be at least a worried about what NATO will do as we are worried about what he will do. I am sure that all our forces are on high alert and far more ready then his forces are or were at the start of this he has managed get all of NATO and much of the rest of Europe on alert and focused on what he is doing. No wonder he is throwing threats around. When you get a dog cornered and he starts barking like mad you have to be careful he will bight

  34. wzrd1 says

    One account that sounds reliable is that one or more of the ship’s antiship cruise missiles went up, secondary to Neptune missile strikes.
    That means the cruise missiles that struck the ship and likely one or more of the vessel’s own cruise missiles spilled burning kerosene onto an already blast damaged deck, igniting the magazine.
    I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of new cases of tinnitus after that mess!

    As for the Admiral Kuznetsov, even if it could get permission to enter the Black Sea, well, it’s always accompanied by an ocean going tug for a reason – it loses propulsion quite frequently.

    As for nuke vessels, Russia has lost quite a few nuclear submarines over the years and little to no radiological contamination in the areas the vessels came to rest.

    The units that occupied Chernobyl can be expected to get bowel, bone, lung cancers at a minimum, as they were digging a lot in the red forest, which remains heavily contaminated. The levels are fairly low, despite their stomping all around, but digging in the soil would disperse particulates, which would end up ingested and breathed in.

  35. Howard Brazee says

    Russia can claim it lost its ship due to enemy action, or it can claim it lost its ship due to its own incompetency. Those are the choices.

  36. whheydt says

    I suspect that Putin would prefer the “lost to own incompetence” option. That way, he can point to a long history of Russian Naval fuck ups, sack a few admirals, and move on. If he went with the “attacked by Ukraine” version, it would be an admission that any defense by the ship got foxed and Ukraine missiles are effective and effectively used.

    And, per Aesop, those grapes are sour anyway.

  37. whheydt says

    With all the talk about the Moscow being the largest ship sunk since WW2, I looked up the General Belgrano (nee’ USS Phoenix). Fully burdened, the General Belgrano came to about 12,300 tons, compared to 12,500 tons for the Moscow. So roughly comparable. The General Belgrano was a light cruiser (in US WW2 usage, that means she carried–15–6″ caliber guns as main armament, where heavy cruisers carried 8″ guns). She sank in 1982 after being hit by torpedoes fired by a British submarine during their little dust up around the Falkland Islands.

  38. PaulBC says

    whheydt@43 How about intentionally scuttled as part of a devious n-dimensional chess game? It looks like most of the Putin shills have gone quiet around here, but I am sure somebody could be persuaded of this if only Russia had thought of it in time.

  39. whheydt says

    Re: Paul BC @ #46…
    Actually… What I’m wondering about is how deep the water is where it went down. Quite a bit of the Black Sea is relatively shallow (as in a few hundred feet deep, or less) and the deepest it gets is less than 8,000 feet. Those depths are well within the capabilities of a lot of RPS units. So somebody could get a look at the damage to see what the likely cause of the sinking was. In some of the shallow areas, raising the Moscow might even be feasible (if rather pointless…those that would know say that it would be cheaper to build a new ship than to repair the Moscow, and that’s without the cost of raising her).

  40. PaulBC says


    (if rather pointless…those that would know say that it would be cheaper to build a new ship than to repair the Moscow, and that’s without the cost of raising her).

    Maybe if the Gamilons attack.

  41. raven says

    Actually… What I’m wondering about is how deep the water is where it went down.

    According to some news reports, the Moskva went down in shallow waters. 45 meters which is 146 feet.
    If so, it is well within diving range.
    It is scrap metal at best by now.

  42. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #49…
    At that depth, the wreck will probably have to be marked on charts as a menace to navigation.

  43. billmcd says

    PaulBC@46: What, you mean like Putin claiming the ship was being transferred from duty as a Russian Navy warship to serving as Russia’s newest aquaculture research station, devoted to establishing a permanent colony on the floor of the Black Sea? From there, the new research colony will be looking into ways for humans to co-exist with fish by living within the structures of artificial reefs to produce sustainable fishery options.

    Oh, and of course, since it’s a colony, it and the seafloor in that location are sovereign Russian territory, which means up to 200 miles from the site is all Russian waters.

  44. StevoR says

    Latest news and videos on the Moscows sinking :


    Via Aussie ABC news here.

    Very clear now that the Russians are lying (not that it wasn’t already) & that they lost crew lives here too.

    Also compare with – warship loss / missile /bomb hits ~wise :