At least one person was killed and another 27 are missing after the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, sunk earlier this month, according to Russian state media.
Another 396 crew members were evacuated to nearby ships and sent on to Sevastopol, a city in Crimea, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. The Russian government, as of Tuesday, had not previously acknowledged any casualties.
The Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser, sunk on April 14, though the cause remains disputed.
Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles, which sparked a fire that detonated stored ammunition. The Moskva was armed with a range of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as well as torpedoes, naval guns and missile defense systems, meaning it would have had massive amounts of explosives aboard.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, says a fire of unknown origin detonated the ammunition and the resulting explosions left the Moskva with structural damage. It says the warship then sank amid rough seas as it was being towed to a nearby port.
Photos and a short video clip emerged early Monday on social media showing the Moskva badly damaged and on fire in the hours before it sank. The images show the Moskva listing to one side, with black holes from possible missile puncture marks, and significant scarring at just above the waterline on the port (left) side in the middle of the vessel. The Kremlin on Monday said it had seen the photos of the Moskva but that they could not verify them.
Whatever the cause, the Moskva’s sinking constitutes a major military embarrassment for Russia, as it was the biggest wartime loss of a naval ship in 40 years. The Moskva was one of the Russian Navy’s most visible assets in the Ukraine war and its loss could impact the morale of Russian troops.
CNN’s Brad Lendon and Ivana Kottasová contributed to this report.