Russia’s flagship Black Sea missile cruiser, the Moskva, has been “seriously damaged” and its crew forced to evacuate, according to Russian state media.

The defence ministry said ammunition on the Moskva exploded in an unexplained fire, but that the 186-metre (610 foot) vessel was still afloat.

But Ukraine has claimed it struck the vessel with its Neptune missiles.

The 510-crew warship has led Russia’s naval assault on Ukraine, making it an important symbolic and military target.

The Moskva has previously become well-known after calling on Ukrainian border troops defending Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender – to which they radioed a message of refusal, which loosely translates as “go to hell”.

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