The Moskva, Russia's Black Sea fleet flagship, sank on Thursday after an explosion.
Russian state media reported in 2020 that the ship was due to take a holy relic on board.
It's unclear whether the relic — a piece of the "true cross" — was on board when the Moskva sank.
The Russian warship that was confirmed as sunk on Thursday may have been carrying a holy relic when it went down.
A news report from 2020 has given rise to the question of whether the vessel sank with a Christian relic — a piece of the "true cross" — on board.
The Russian Orthodox Church announced in February 2020 that the relic had been delivered to the then-commander of the Black Sea fleet, Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, and was at the fleet's headquarters in readiness for delivery to the ship "shortly," the state-run Tass news agency reported at the time.
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The relic in question is a fragment of wood just millimeters big, which according to believers is a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified, Tass said. That fragment is embedded in a 19th-century metal cross which is itself kept in a reliquary, per the outlet.
The Moskva had a chapel on board for sailors to pray in, Sergiy Khalyuta, archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church's Sevastopol District, told Tass. He said the fragment was to be transferred at the request of its owner, an anonymous collector.
Insider was unable to establish when the relic was finally transferred to the Moskva or if it was on board at the time of the vessel's sinking in 2022. The Russian embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sinking of the Moskva, as a prized flagship, is a major blow to Russian morale, Western officials said.
Moscow has ignored claims of responsibility from Ukraine, which says it struck the ship with a long-range missile from land.
The exact details of how the ship sunk are still unclear. Russian officials said on Thursday that a fire caused an explosion of the ship's ammunition on board, prompting an evacuation of the crew.
CNN cited a person familiar with the intelligence as saying that the US believes Ukraine's claims with "medium confidence."
The Moskva attracted headlines at the outbreak of the war for an exchange with Ukrainian border guards on Zmynyii, or Snake, Island as the ship asked them to evacuate.
The resulting conversation — in which the guards told the ship to "go fuck yourself," went viral and became a rallying cry for Ukraine's war effort.
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