Family members seek answers after loss of cruiser Moskva
Russian officials have been tight-lipped about the fate of the cruiser’s crew Moscowwhich sank off Odessa on April 14. The ship was hit by two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, according to the US Department of Defense, and sank after a day of unsuccessful salvage efforts.
In the days following the accident, Russian state media claimed that the ship suffered a fire and an ammunition magazine explosion, and that all of its approximately 500 crew members evacuated. However, footage from the scene told a different story: the ship appeared to have suffered two hull breaches near the waterline on the port side, just below the funnel, and extensive fire damage amidships. .
A memorial service for “the ship and the sailors” was held at the Russian Navy’s Sevastopol base on April 15, and around 100-250 crew members attended, based on official video footage – well in short of full strength by about 500.
Meanwhile, relatives of missing sailors from Moscow began taking to Russian social media to report their frustration with the official response. A parent, Dmitry Shkrebets, told Newsweek he received two competing stories. Moskva officers quietly acknowledged that her son was missing, while the Russian Ministry of Defense maintained that he was not; Shkrebets described the official response as an “indifferent and frantic wall of silence”.
On Friday, the Kremlin tried to reconcile the conflicting versions of the event by publishing its first count of the victims. One member of the cruiser’s crew is dead and 27 others are missing, according to the official tally. The tally matches an earlier report by US-backed outlet Radio Liberty, which received the same number of casualties from the wife of a deceased crew member.
Other informal estimates have been higher. Last week, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported a conversation with the mother of a crew member who survived the attack. The mother told a story of heavy damage and loss of life, including around 40 dead, a large number of crew members seriously injured and many more missing.
The Russian Navy may soon have more information about the cause and human cost of the sinking. Naval analyst HI Sutton says recent satellite imagery shows the Black Sea Fleet has deployed the aging submarine Community at the site of the wreck of the Moskva.
the Community is a 110-year-old catamaran with a lifting derrick riveted above her hull, and her unique shape is immediately identifiable. Built in 1913 to service small submarines, the Community serves the same purpose today. She is the host ship for the AS-28 diving submarine, which could well be on board for a mission to survey the wreckage – and potentially salvage some of its most valuable components.
Kommuna in Sevastopol around 2008 (George Chernilevsky / public domain)