THE SINKING OF THE MOSKVA: The Russian warship that brave defenders of Ukraine’s Snake Island famously told to “go F itself” on the first day of the war now lies at the bottom of the Black Sea.

The Russian cruiser Moskva (English transliteration of the Russian word for Moscow), taking on water after a fire and explosion on board, sank in choppy seas as it was being towed in an attempt to salvage it.

The official Russian version of events is that the flagship of the Black Sea fleet suffered a fire of underdetermined origin, igniting ammunition stocks and blowing a hole in the hull.

“During the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the designation port, the ship lost stability due to hull damage, sustained during the detonation of ammunition because of a fire. Amid the heavy storm, the ship sank,” said a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, according to Tass.

“The ministry said that the crew was evacuated to nearby Black Sea fleet ships, adding that the cause of the incident is being determined,” the report said.


THE REST OF THE STORY: As with a lot of propaganda, the Russian statement appears accurate as far as it goes, but it leaves out key details.

The Pentagon was able to confirm that the ship was about 60 nautical miles off the coast, almost exactly due south of the strategically vital port city of Odesa, when the explosion occurred, well within range of Ukrainian anti-ship cruise missiles.

Ukraine immediately claimed to have hit the ship with a home-grown Neptune missile, while Russia seems to prefer the narrative that poor seamanship and fire suppression efforts were responsible for the disaster.

On CNN this morning, retired Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, citing his sources in the region, said Ukraine distracted the Moskva’s air defense radars by deploying a drone on the opposite side of the ship while firing two anti-ship cruise missiles that flew just feet above the wave tops to avoid radar detection.

One clue that belies the Russian narrative of an accident at sea is that following the Ukrainian claim of a successful cruise missile strike, all of Russia’s other ships in the Black Sea moved 20 nautical miles farther away from Ukraine’s coastline, according to a senior defense official at the Pentagon.

“Between four and five or so, those that were as close or closer to the coast than the cruiser, have all moved south,” the official said. “At this point, we hold them no closer than about 80 nautical miles from the coast.”


A TACTICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL VICTORY: Just as the sinking of the battleship Bismarck in World War II helped puncture the myth of German invincibility, the sinking of the Moskva demonstrates that Russia’s Navy, while superior to Ukraine’s, cannot operate with impunity in the Black Sea.

The Bismarck was the pride of the German Navy, while the Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea fleet.

“The destruction of the Moskva, the largest warship to be destroyed in combat since World War II ... now is causing some fear in the Russian Black Sea fleet,” said Pittard.

As Ukraine’s coastal defenses are bolstered by U.S. and British defensive systems, Russia’s aims to launch any operations against Odesa become more risky.

“This is a big blow to the Black Sea fleet. This is a cruiser, a very, very capable warship, with almost 500 sailors on board, and a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on CNN. “So this is going to have an effect on their capabilities.”

‘THEY’LL GET THERE’: The Pentagon also revealed yesterday that the mysterious “Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels” — robot ships that are being sent to Ukraine in the next batch of weaponry — will be operated by Ukrainian military officers who happened to be in the United States when the war broke out and were trained on the developmental prototypes before returning to Ukraine last week.

“I'm not going to talk about the specific capabilities of these USVs [Unmanned Surface Vessels],” said Kirby at yesterday’s briefing. “They are designed to help Ukraine with its coastal defense. Coastal defense is something that Ukraine has repeatedly said they're interested in. It is particularly in acute need now, as we see the Russians really refocus their efforts on the east and the south.”

Asked how the robot ships would get to the Black Sea, Kirby said simply, “They'll get there.”


Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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NEW THIS MORNING: As the American-led effort to greatly enhance Ukraine’s arsenal of battlefield weapons picks up steam, it is infuriating Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Washington Post reports this morning that Moscow has sent a diplomatic démarche warning the U.S. to stop arming Ukraine.

The diplomatic note says U.S. and NATO shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict and could bring “unpredictable consequences,” according to the Post.

“What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly — that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,” the paper quoted a senior administration official as saying.

‘SLOW TO AWAKE’: “Before the invasion, the Biden administration’s provision of weapons to Ukraine was hesitant, insufficient, and belated. The Biden team worried more about provoking Putin and spent too little time arming a threatened democracy before the invasion started,” says Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “But since the invasion, the Biden administration deserves credit for implementing one of the most agile and impressive campaigns of security assistance in memory.”

“Based on a realization regarding the magnitude of the stakes, we are finally moving heaven and earth to get Ukraine what it needs,” Bowman, senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power, said in an email.

“The next few weeks in eastern Ukraine may be decisive. Can we get the howitzers, artillery rounds, and radars there in time to help Ukraine hold the line long enough for the United States and its allies to put together a sustainable and effective plan of security assistance for Ukraine for what may be a very long haul,” he said.

“Once again, the American giant was slow to awake but has become quite formidable once fully aroused from its slumber. Hopefully, we won’t make the same mistake with Taiwan.”


D-DAY IS COMING: The Pentagon says while there is active fighting along the eastern front, Russian forces are still preparing for the upcoming full-scale offensive, something the U.S. refers to as “shaping operations.”

“They are setting the conditions for what we believe will be a heavier offensive in the Donbas region,” a senior defense official told reporters yesterday. “It means putting in place artillery units, moving them in, moving in command-and-control enablers, moving in aviation support.”

“We saw some more helicopters being staged to the north of the Donbas in Russia just in the last 24 hours,” the official said. “But we have not seen a great influx of additional battalion tactical groups into the region yet.”

“It's very difficult for us to tell you with certainty when D-Day is for this. We do think that in general, that they want to achieve some physical, tangible objectives in the Donbas within the next couple of weeks, but how far they'll go, what that means, whether that's the end of it, we just don't know.”

ONE GENERAL’S VIEW: Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, has offered his analysis of where things stand in a lengthy Twitter thread, in which he predicts Russia's new field commander, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, aka "the butcher of Syria,” will likely fail in his mandate to deliver a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin in time for Russia’s annual May 9 celebration of the Nazi surrender in World War II.

“Dvornikov's biggest problems are a lack of personnel replacements & integration, poor leadership in junior & senior subordinates, lousy command & control, no coordination on the joint team, dysfunctional logistics, still too many missions for too small a force,” tweeted Hertling, who is now a military analyst for CNN. “In my view, no matter how good ANY new general is, it still takes A LOT OF time to fix an ill-trained, poorly led, logistically unsupported & now broken and depleted force. Dvornikov will not be able to overcome these challenges. He will NOT meet a 9 May victory deadline.”

“If I were in command of the [Ukrainian Army] force, I would also be thinking about 3 things: 1) Ensuring my force was flexible & mobile, 2) Finding ways to establish Quick Reaction Forces (QRF's) to counter any breakthrough, 3) Lightening my logistics/resupply requirements,” he tweeted. “QRF mobile units would have a lot of soldiers who knew how to use Javelins, Stingers, Switchblades, etc and they would be supported by artillery in a centralized location with counter-fire radar,” adding, “Hey ….this sound like what's in the packages just announced.”


WATCH THIS SPACE: President Joe Biden confirmed yesterday that he is thinking of dispatching a high-level U.S. official on a visit to Kyiv to show support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has hosted other world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in recent days.

“We’re making that decision now,” Biden told reporters as he boarded Air Force One yesterday. On the plane, en route to North Carolina, deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she could only repeat what Biden said. “We’re still in discussion, deciding this.”

Speculation has centered on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as the likely representative of the Biden administration. For security reasons, no announcement will be made until after whoever it is safely arrives in the Ukrainian capital.

“I have no travel for the secretary to talk to today, nothing to announce, nothing to speak to,” Austin’s spokesman John Kirby told CNN. “I'm not previewing one, but [with] any potential visit, you'd have to have security concerns, and we certainly wouldn't do it if we couldn't meet those concerns.”

Kirby, who would normally be traveling with Austin, canceled today’s usual Pentagon briefing citing the Easter weekend holiday.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Russian warship that Ukraine claimed credit for striking has now sunk

Washington Examiner: Eye in the sky: Satellite imagery proves vital to understanding Ukraine war

Washington Examiner: Top ICC prosecutor declares Ukraine a ‘crime scene’ after visiting Bucha

Washington Examiner: Thirty Ukrainian prisoners of war released from Russian captivity

Washington Examiner: Russia warns nuclear expansion assured if Sweden and Finland join NATO

Washington Examiner: Russia’s latest nuclear threat rings hollow in Baltic states

Washington Examiner: Ukrainian tractor driver killed by anti-tank mine as planting season begins

Washington Examiner: Ukraine seizes 55 homes, 26 cars, yacht from captured oligarch

Washington Examiner: Booby-trapped bridge blows up as Russian convoy drives over it: Ukrainian forces

Washington Examiner: GOP wants US intelligence community to help Ukrainians retake Russian-occupied territory

Washington Examiner: Ex-Hill chief leads humanitarian effort in Ukraine

Washington Examiner: ISIS 'Beatle' convicted for hostage-taking that killed Americans

Washington Examiner: Cartels reportedly set fire to trucks at border to force bridge reopening

Washington Post: Russia warns U.S. to stop arming Ukraine

Stars and Stripes: Republican Lawmakers Call For Reopening U.S. Embassy In Ukraine’s Capital

New York Times: Putin May Be Tempted to Use Small Nuclear Weapon, C.I.A. Chief Says

New York Times: Soviet-Era Missiles Now Guard Ukraine’s Skies

AP: Russia loses warship, says will increase attacks on Kyiv

AP: Russia Tests Submarine-Launched Missiles In Sea Of Japan

Air Force Magazine: US Patriot Air Defense Systems in Poland Protect Aircraft Delivering Supplies for Ukraine

Air Force Magazine: NATO Intercepts of Russian Aircraft Near Poland’s Skies Increasing

Air Force Magazine: USSF Starts All-Guardian Basic Training in May

Reuters: Six U.S. Lawmakers Arrive In Taiwan On Unannounced Trip

USNI News: Panel: China Planning a ‘Go Big, Go Early’ Strategy Against Taiwan

Defense News: Document Reveals $14 Billion Backlog Of U.S. Defense Transfers To Taiwan

Breaking Defense: Australia, U.S. Grapple With Solomon Islands Tilt To China

Washington Post: South Korea’s President-Elect Unveils Foreign Policy Goals

Aviation Week: Lockheed Laser Shoots Down Aerial Targets For U.S. Navy Demo

USNI News: Erik Raven Sworn In As Navy Under Secretary

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The Navy Wants To Scrap USS Fort Worth, And Texas Lawmaker Is Having None Of It

CNN: Sikhs Are Suing The U.S. Marine Corps For The Right To Wear Their Turbans And Beards

USNI News: Navy COVID-19 Separations Pass 800 as Service Pushes Toward Fully Vaxxed Operational Force Meet the Neptune: Ukraine's Homemade Cruise Missile That Struck the Moskva Does the Ukraine War Mean the U.S. Runs Out of Javelin Missiles? NATO Sends the 'Big Guns' and Rocket Artillery to Help Ukraine Fight Russia Putin's New Ukraine Strategy: Create Fake Republics and Declare Victory? S-300: How Ukraine Could Kill Russia's Air Force?

Business Insider: In Future Wars, U.S. Marine Special Operators Will Need To Do More Than 'Kicking Down A Door,' Top Marine Says

Washington Post: The Military Wants ‘Robot Ships’ To Replace Sailors In Battle

Forbes: Opinion: Putin Learns A Lesson Washington Knows All Too Well: Military Power Can Kill People, But It Can’t Change Them



1 p.m. — Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies virtual discussion: “Ukraine in Crisis,” with former National Security Council Senior Director for Counter-proliferation Strategy Michael Allen, managing director at Beacon Global Strategies; Angela Stent, director of Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies; and Matthew Heiman, senior fellow and director of planning at the National Security Institute

4 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova


10:30 a.m. — Palo Alto Networks Joint Service Academy Cybersecurity Summit: “The Role of Cyber in Hybrid Warfare and Great Power Competition/Conflict,” with Retired Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, director, U.S. Air Force Academy Institute for Future Conflict; Bruce Byrd, executive vice president and general counsel; Retired Vice Adm. T.J .White, former commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and commander, U.S. Tenth Fleet and member of Palo Alto Networks Public Sector Advisory Council; Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command; Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command; Russ Meade, executive director, U.S. Marine Forces Cyberspace Command; Vice Adm. Ross Myers, commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and commander, U.S. Tenth Fleet; Lt. Gen. Charles Moore, deputy commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Maj. Gen. William Hartman, commander, Cyber National Mission Force; Lt. General Robert Skinner , director Defense Information Systems Agency and the commander Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network


“Once again, the American giant was slow to awake but has become quite formidable once fully aroused from its slumber. Hopefully, we won’t make the same mistake with Taiwan.”

Bradley Bowman, senior director the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.