UKRAINIAN forces used some of their newest missiles to blow up an ageing Soviet-era Russian warship in the biggest naval loss sink Britain sunk the General Belgrano.
Slava-class missile cruiser Moskova has been in service on-and-off for almost 40 years – and should she sink, she will be the largest naval asset lost since World War 2.
Drones are reported to have been used to harass the vessel and keep its air defences distracted before the missiles were fired from a hidden battery near Odesa.
At least two of the missiles are then reported to have struck the ship – causing a massive explosion and inferno as they are believed to have detonated one of Moskova's exposed deckside missile tubes.
Russia claims the ship has been evacuated, remains afloat, and the cause of the fire is under "investigation" – making no mention of the strike.
Ukraine meanwhile has said the vessel is believed to be sinking as the damage and bad weather takes its toll on the now-abandoned wreck.
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Russia has claimed the ship is being towed back to the port – and so far no pictures have been revealed showing the damage.
And some Ukrainian reports claimed the ship has already rolled over and sunk.
Neptune missiles were only introduced into military service in Ukraine last year – with each weapon carrying a 330lb warhead with a range of 170 miles.
The batteries, which are mounted on the back of large trucks, can be armed with up to 72 of the missiles.
Targets are believed to be selected by drones.
And the missiles can hit speeds of more than 650mph as they streak towards the enemy ship.
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Putin is reported to have been briefed on the disaster, the latest catastrophe to hit his bogged down war in Ukraine.
Moskova is the biggest vessel of her kind sunk in combat since Britain destroyed the General Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1983.
Belgrano – also a cruiser – was sunk by HMS Conqueror using two Tigerfish torpedoes in one of the most infamous battles.
She sunk along with 323 sailors in the biggest loss of life during the conflict.
And there are at least 300 feared dead after the strike on the Moskva.
Russia's flagship had been operated in the Black Sea since the start of the war and is believed to have taken part in strikes on the coast of Ukraine.
And she famously was told to go "f*** yourself" before opening fire on defenders holding out on Snake Island.
The 12,490 ton vessel has had a long service history, first being laid down in 1976 before finally coming into service seven years later in 1983.
The ship is believed to have been equipped with outdated anti-air weapons which couldn't protect her from the Ukrainian missiles.
She was originally called the Slava – before being mothballed in 1990 amid the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The warship was then brought back into service in 2000 when she became the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.
Moskva played a role in the 2008 invasion of Georgia, sailed in the Med during Russia's bombardment of Syria in 2013 and 2014, and blockaded Ukraine during the annexation of Crimea.
The ageing ship is one of many within Russia's creaking and out-of-date navy – which, while large, is still reliant on a spine of vessels built in the final days of the Soviet Union.
And the one most infamous examples of Putin's dilapidated navy is the smoke belching aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
Kuznetsov became a spectacle when she sailed past Britain in 2016 – complete with her own tug in case she broke down.
Putin has been attempting to modernise his surface fleet – but the lose of the Moskva will be a major blow to Russia's prestige and their military operations in Ukraine.
Naval warfare expert H I Sutton told The Sun Online: "The attack will be symbolic, and also militarily significant.
"Moskva was the flagship and so likely had a command and control function over other warships. And its air defenses covered much of the northern Black Sea."
"The Russian Navy may rethink how it employs its warships there. The cruise missile launches are likely to continue, but we may not see as bold deployment of ships near the Ukrainian coast.
"And an amphibious landing near Odesa now appears even less likely."
The author, who recently penned an article about Moskva for Naval News,also noted the anti-air on the ship looked "increasingly dated, even by Russian Navy standards".
Russia has suffered a disastrous war in Ukraine – losing nearly 20,000 troops, almost 3,000 tanks, and 300 aircraft.
Putin had expected he could march across Ukraine without much of a fight – but in reality the Russians have faced a valiant resistance.
The mad tyrant stupidly had believed victory was possible in a matter of days, but the war has instead been raging for weeks.
He has continued to defend the war as a "noble mission" and promised to continue amid mounting allegations of war crimes.
Putin's troops thought they would be greeted with cheers and waving flags in Ukraine, instead they were faced with rage and molotov cocktails.
And this slow and brutal quagmire has seen the Russians change tactics, moving from surgical strikes to indiscriminate bombardment on cities.
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Ukraine is continuing to call for aid as it receives weapons and vehicles from the West.
But world leaders and Nato remain fearful to provide much more unless they risk open war with Russia and potentially World War 3.
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