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Is the Damaged Russian Warship Moskva the ‘Snake Island’ Ship?

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The damaged Russian warship Moskva is the same boat involved in the "Snake Island" incident.

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On April 14 2022, several Imgur posts referenced the Russian warship Moskva — typically in conversations related to an earlier incident on Snake Island and discussions around conflicting claims about whether it “sank” after coming under Ukrainian fire:

Untitled Chariot wheels found at th...
Untitled Chariot wheels found at the bottom of the Red Sea?-Unproven!- May 25, 2022

Same ship the Ukrainians told to eff off from that island.

Under the sea… Under the sea…… ♬♫

Russians,after the moskva ship got hit (the go f yourself warship)

One of the first globally notable incidents after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 2022 involved 13 Ukrainian soldiers defending Snake Island.

Snake Island’s Ukrainian Fighters May Have Survived

A Wikipedia entry for Snake Island observed that it “gained worldwide attention and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.” In our February 28 2022 fact check regarding claims the 13 Ukrainian fighters (initially believed to have been killed in the skirmish) survived, we quoted a popular purported exchange from the incident:

According to a purported audio exchange, as the Russians approached Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, the Russian officer says: “This is a military warship. This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”

A Ukrainian soldier responds: “Russian warship, go [fuck] yourself.”

According to a subsequent report, the soldier responsible for the “go fuck yourself” comment was freed in a prisoner exchange and awarded a medal. That Wikipedia entry (and related page) also mentioned the Moskva as one of two ships involved in the Snake Island conflict, and summarized the aftermath:

On 24 February 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island, a Ukrainian island in the Black Sea also known as Zmiinyi Island, was attacked by the Russian Navy. The attack was widely publicized when an audio clip of Ukrainian soldier Roman Hrybov replying “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” surfaced after being told to surrender. The entire garrison was captured, after initial reports of their deaths. A civilian search and rescue ship trying to evacuate the soldiers was also captured. The ship, its crew, and at least one soldier were subsequently freed in prisoner exchanges.

On April 13 2022, the New York Times reported “conflicting” narratives about the Moskva and the damage it sustained, noting that Ukrainian forces described the vessel as the same one involved in the attack on Snake Island:

A Russian warship in the Black Sea was “seriously damaged” on [April 13 2022], according to a Ukrainian military official and Russian state news agencies, though each claimed a different cause for the destruction.

The head of Odesa’s military forces, Maxim Marchenko, said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had struck the ship with anti-ship Neptune missiles. He claimed it was the same vessel that was famously and obscenely told off by Ukrainian troops in February [2022], saying it went “exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!”

On April 14 2022, the Associated Press reported:

The Russian military sustained a major blow Thursday [April 14 2022] when the flagship of the country’s Black Sea fleet was badly damaged and its crew evacuated. Ukrainian officials said their forces hit the vessel with missiles, while Russia acknowledged a fire aboard the Moskva but no attack.

[…]

Despite an early report from one Ukrainian official saying the ship had sunk, the Moskva was still moving on its own power, at least for now, a senior U.S defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments, said the Pentagon could not confirm what caused the fire.

News reports from April 13 and 14 2022 described the Moskva as “reportedly” one of the two ships involved in the attack on Snake Island. But a search restricted to content published between February 24 and March 31 2022 returned news which mentioned the Moskva by name in stories about the incident:

Several hours after the first call to surrender came over the radio, Russian warships opened fire, the Ukrainian government said. The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet — the missile cruiser Moskva and the patrol ship Vasily Bykov — were reported in the area, according to the Ukrainians.

[…]

The island’s siege and capture also underscores the uncontested naval presence that Russia has in the Black Sea. The ship that reportedly took part in the attack — the Moskva — is a massive, 11,000-ton cruiser that was launched by the Soviet Union in the 1980s to take on U.S. aircraft carriers by overwhelming them with volleys of high-speed cruise missiles.

Wikipedia’s “Attack on Snake Island” entry also mentioned the Moskva in a version last edited on March 31 2022. A section titled “Attack” read:

On 24 February 2022, the first day of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian State Border Guards announced about 18:00 local time that Snake Island had come under attack by Russian Navy ships. The cruiser Moskva and patrol ship Vasily Bykov bombarded the island with their deck guns.

When the Russian warship identified itself and ordered the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender, a soldier replied “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!” (Russian: ‘Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй’, tr. Russky voyenny korabl, idi na khuy). An audio clip of the exchange was first shared by Ukrainian government official Anton Herashchenko, then widely publicized by Ukrayinska Pravda, and later verified as authentic by Ukrainian government sources.

One Ukrainian soldier live-streamed the moment that the Russian warship opened fire. Later in the evening, the State Border Guard Service said that communication with the island had been lost. At 22:00 (01:00 Moscow Time, UTC+2), service officials announced that Russian forces had captured the island following a naval and air bombardment that destroyed all infrastructure on the island.[14][15] After the bombardment, a detachment of Russian soldiers landed and took control of Snake Island.

The Russian government reported that on 25 February 2022, a squadron of 16 boats of the Ukrainian Navy attacked Russian vessels off Snake Island, also claiming that it sank six of the Ukrainian boats. The Russian government further accused the United States of providing intelligence support to the Ukrainian squadron during the action. The United States denied any involvement.

An April 15 2022 CBS News article about damage to the Moskva described the conflicting narratives, reporting:

Ukraine’s underdog forces have dealt Vladimir Putin’s military another major blow. The Ukrainian military said [on April 15 2022] that it had badly damaged one of Russia’s most essential warships with a missile strike off Ukraine’s battered southern coast.

Russia’s military acknowledged that the guided missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, had been forced to evacuate its entire crew — around 500 sailors — and was being towed back to port, but the defense ministry said it was because of a fire onboard, the cause of which was still being investigated.

[…]

The country’s military, which amounts to just a fraction of Russia’s forces, continues to punch above its weight. The most recent evidence of that was the rocket strike announced [on April 15 2022] on the Moskva warship. It was the same ship that Ukrainian troops famously told to go to hell when they were ordered to surrender on the tiny Snake Island at the start of the war.

On April 14 and 15 2022, news outlets around the world reported Russia’s Moskva was “badly damaged,” and that Russia denied that the vessel had sustained damage due to Ukrainian Navy counterstrikes. Several outlets acknowledged the Moskva‘s involvement with the incident on Snake Island. However, the ship was referenced in February 24 and 25 2022 reporting on the Snake Island attack.