BRITISH naval warfare training given to Ukraine could have been key in helping to sink Putin's prized flagship Moskva, said the UK's former First Sea Lord.
Admiral Lord West – the ex-Royal Navy Chief and Falklands War hero – was speaking as Russia admitted the cruiser has sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea.
Ukraine claims it hit the vessel with cruise missiles after distracting the warship's defences with drones.
The 12,490-tonne monster's wreck is believed to have plunged into the depths as it was being towed to a Russian naval port Sevastopol in Crimea.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Admiral Lord West, 73, said British training would have given the Ukrainians the expertise to help blitz the 40-year-old Soviet-era war machine.
The comments are in relation to an ongoing package of military support from the British Armed Forces known as Operation Orbital.
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British specialists were in Odessa – where the missiles are believed to have been fired from – last year training Ukrainian forces in naval warfare at the 198th Naval Forces Training Center, a diving school and a Marine School.
The Brits also trained sailors, pilots and elite Ukrainian marines as part of the vital mission, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The offering was part of a rotation of around 100 UK military personnel from the army, navy and RAF who have travelled in and out of Ukraine since 2015.
In that time Britain trained an extraordinary 22,000 Ukrainian troops.
Lord West explained: "We certainly were teaching the Ukrainians about naval warfare in some detail, so they will know how to use surface to surface missiles and the best way of deploying them.
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"The Neptune missile needs targeted information to its initial flight path, it then switches to its own sensors."
The subsonic Ukrainian-made missile is based on the old Soviet Kh-35 anti-ship missile and can destroy targets over 200 MILES away.
First coming into service in Ukraine last year, the whole system comprises a truck-based mobile launcher, four missiles, a reload vehicle, and a command and control vehicle.
It is designed to fly close to the surface of the water to avoid detection – it then strikes its target before it even knows its there.
The former First Sea Lord suggested how such training may have even changed the "tactical dimensions of the Black Sea" and therefore altered the course of the conflict.
He explained: "If the Ukrainians were able to use drones and other intelligence information which they may have got from us and other allies, to target this at a long range from the coast, then this will change the Russian tactics."
He added how the blitzing of the Moskva will now "have a huge impact on them [the Russians] and their operations".
"And I think now the Russians will have to think very carefully about how they deploy and use their ships", he added.
Russia's flagship is understood to have been left a smouldering wreck after taking two hits of Neptune anti-ship missiles fired by Ukraine.
Moscow has not yet admitted the vessel was struck by Kyiv – instead insisting it sunk in a storm after a fire triggered an ammo explosion.
Western officials believe its "plausible and possible" that the cruiser was hit by Ukraine.
It is believed to be a major blow to Russian national pride and a deep personal blow to Putin.
The attack killed the ship's captain Anton Kuprin, 44, and sent an estimated 500 crew members into the water.
It is unknown how many perished following the direct strike of the Moskva.
But the next step, Lord West said, is to understand how the Ukrainians conducted the attack.
He noted: "I think what would be great to know is to hear from our intelligence agencies as quickly as possible did the Ukrainians do it?
"If they did, I think we ought to let the world know and show how we know that because it will be a huge blow to the Russians."
As a result, the Russians are now going to be "very wary about using their ships close in-shore" and even at certain ranges from the coast, he said.
Lord West added how he thinks a potential amphibious landing in Odessa by the Russian navy is now "off the cards" thanks to the destruction of the ship which has sent others vessels scarpering.
He also noted the sinking is "an amazing loss of face" for the Russians and will hit Putin incredibly hard, too.
He explained: "This will be a personal blow as well as a huge blow to national prestige not least because Putin loves his navy.
This will be a personal blow as well as a huge blow to national prestige not least because Putin loves his navy
"It is his favourite one of his forces because his father was in the Navy and he has always had a real soft spot for it."
The former First Sea Lord suggested the Russians may even be forced to launch a mission to dive on the ship.
This would be in order to protect military secrets that may be held on the Moskva which could fall into Ukrainian hands.
Lord West was First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff from 2002 to 2006.
From June 2007 to May 2010, he was Labour Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office – responsible for security.
He was also a security advisor to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
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British training has been pivotal in Ukraine's war with Russia.
In the days before the invasion, Ukrainian soldiers from across the country turned up in droves to receive UK training on NLAWs [next generation light anti-tank weapons].
The UK has so far given more than 5,000 NLAWs to Ukraine forces and shipping over 6,000 more.
They have proved invaluable in slowing the Russian advance, British forces have said.
Other weapons provided by Britain include the lethal Starstreak missile system which has been recorded annihilating Russian helicopters.
Footage from April 1 showed an Russian Mi-28N chopper being cut in two as its tail was struck by the laser-guided device travelling at more than three times the speed of sound, sending it plunging to the ground in the Luhansk region.
Russia has since vowed to target British-supplied weapons given to Ukrainians and has accused the UK of escalating the war.
The UK is estimated to have given more than £450 million in military support to Ukraine since war broke out on February 24.
And in an extraordinary revelation on Saturday, The Times reported how elite British SAS soldiers 'are training local forces in Ukraine'.
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The special forces – considered the best in the world – are understood to have been stationed in the country since the start of the war, teaching soldiers how to use NLAWs and offering other training.
One Ukrainian named 'Skiff' – attached to the 112th battalion, one of two allegedly being trained by the SAS – told the paper “they were good guys, the Brits", after his training in Obolon, a district of Kyiv.
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