Bayraktar drone used to ‘distract’ Russian flagship in missile attack: Reports

A Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 combat drone has been involved in a Ukrainian attack on the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, according to a number of reports. 

Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and one of the largest ships in Russia’s arsenal, sustained heavy damage during the night between April 13 and 14, 2022. 

During the evening of April 13, sources within Ukrainian military began to claim that Moskva had been struck and heavily damaged by two Neptune anti-ship missiles launched from Ukraine.  

Some open-source intelligence sources claim that Moskva’s SOS call had been intercepted. Online vessel tracking services also showed multiple Russian ships hurriedly approaching the last known location of the Moskva, indicating a rescue effort. 

During the early morning of April 14, Russian state media announced that a fire had erupted on Moskva.  

“As a result of a fire ammunition detonated on a missile cruiser Moskva. The ship has been heavily damaged. The crew has been evacuated,” a spokesperson from the Russian Defense Ministry is quoted as sating by state news agency TASS. 

According to the agency, the cause of the fire is yet to be determined. 

Later that same day, a Telegram account belonging to independent Russian think tank The Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies posted a claim that a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 drone was used to “distract” the ship before it was hit by the Neptune. However, the post has since been deleted.  

TB2 drones have been operated by both the Ukrainian Air Force and the Ukrainian Navy. Following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Bayraktars have been consistently employed by the Ukrainian defenders. 

Despite Russia claiming to have shot down large numbers of these drones, Ukrainian sources have continued to publish videos of alleged Bayraktar strikes on Russian armored vehicles, resupply convoys, command centers and air defense systems. 

The latest video, allegedly showing a Bayraktar spotting targets for Ukrainian multiple rocket launchers, was published on April 13. Shortly before April 10, a TB2 ground control station was spotted in Odessa, indicating that Ukrainian armed forces operate the type in the area. On April 12, Russian Defense Ministry published a video showing the frigate Armiral Essen shooting anti-aircraft missiles at what has been described as a Ukrainian Bayraktar drone.  

Multiple accounts about the Bayraktar’s involvement in the alleged attack on Moskva have been published online. According to Arkady Babchenko, a Russian military journalist and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, a Ukrainian Bayraktar disabled Moskva’s radar station, rendering it unable to detect and intercept incoming missiles. However, Babchenko has not provided the source of such information. 

At noon on April 14, Russia’s Defense ministry announced that the fire on Moskva had been extinguished and the vessel was being towed to port. The main missile armament of the ship has not been damaged, the ministry claims.  

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