Moskva Loss 'Very, Very Painful Blow' for Russia: Former Putin Adviser

Andrei Illarionov, an economist and former policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the loss of the Moskva warship is a "very, very painful blow" for the Russian military.

Ukraine on Thursday said that it had struck the flagship Moskva cruiser with a missile. Russia offered a conflicting report, saying ammunition exploded on board the ship and then that poor weather caused it to sink. The Pentagon on Friday said that it had concluded Ukraine struck the Russian warship with a missile, causing it ultimately to sink.

At 610 feet in length, the Moskva was the third-largest in Russia's fleet. The vessel was also the only one of Moscow's warships that were capable of carrying nuclear weapons. It reportedly had been utilized as an important store of weapons for the offensive against Ukraine.

"From a purely military point of view, it is very important because it's a flagman of the Black Sea fleet. But it is incomparably more important from the point of view of symbolic significance," Illarionov told CNN on Friday, commenting on Russia's perspective on the loss of the Moskva.

Vladimir Putin
A former advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the loss of the Moskva warship was a "painful blow" to the nation amidst its invasion of Ukraine. Above, Putin looks on during talks with Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko at the Vostochny Cosmodrome on April 12, 2022, in the Amur Oblast in Russia's Far East. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

He went on to lay out all of the vessel's important history to the Russian military and how Putin had utilized the warship in the past. Illarionov also pointed out that the name is the Russian equivalent of Moscow, the capital of Russia.

"So this is a very, very painful blow to the morale and to the status of the navy and the Russian army," he concluded.

Although Russia has denied that the ship was attacked by a Ukrainian missile, it appeared to retaliate by targeting a missile factory in Kyiv. The Vizar military factory, which is close to Kyiv's international Zhuliany airport, was damaged in Russian strikes overnight, according to AFP journalists. Russia also announced that it had struck the factory, which manufactures the missiles Ukraine says it used to attack the Moskva.

"Overnight, Kalibr sea-launched long-range precision missiles delivered a strike against a military facility on the outskirts of Kyiv. As a result of the strike on the Zhulyany-based Vizar machine-building factory, the workshops of the production and repair of long-and medium-range surface-to-air missile systems and also anti-ship missiles were destroyed," Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Friday, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

Other military analysts have said that the destruction of the Moskva is a serious blow for Russia and its assault on Ukraine.

"Russia has lost a significant part of its naval capability in the Black Sea, and its ability to hit targets in Ukraine," independent Russian military analyst Pavel Luzhin told The Moscow Times on Thursday. "Without the Moskva, it would seem that a marine operation against Odesa or Mykolaiv is impossible right now."

"If Ukraine can challenge the Black Sea Fleet (and it appears they can) then taking back Crimea is very much in the cards. Total victory possible," security expert Paul Massaro wrote on Twitter.

"The historic performance of the Ukrainian military vs. the dismal showing by the Russians is really something to behold," Massaro, a senior policy adviser for counter-corruption and sanctions at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, added in another tweet.

Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, expecting that his military would easily take control of much of the Eastern European nation within days. The unprovoked assault on Ukraine drew swift international condemnation, as the U.S. and Western European allies responded with stringent sanctions targeting Russia's economy and the Moscow elite. NATO countries have also transferred billions of dollars of weapons and humanitarian aid to support Ukraine in the fight.

Despite Putin's expectations, the Russian military largely failed in its initial campaign. After seven weeks of fighting, Moscow's forces have failed to take control of any major Ukrainian city and the nation's government remains in power.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's embassy for comment.