On the day after Ukraine claimed that all 510 crew members, including the ship’s captain, had perished aboard Russia’s Black Sea flagship Moskva, relatives of the ship’s doomed crew defied Russian censors by holding an unofficial memorial. According to the Ukrainian government, a missile strike on a Soviet-era cruiser sank on Thursday night because of a fire on board. The United States has confirmed that it believes that Ukraine launched a missile strike on the cruiser. Ukraine claimed responsibility for the Moskva’s destruction, claiming that a missile strike from the country’s coast shattered the vessel. Russia’s defence ministry admitted Thursday that the ship sank in stormy seas after what it claimed were fires and explosions involving ammunition stowed on board.
In the beginning, Russia tried to minimise the damage and claimed that the Moskva was still afloat and returning to port on its own power. The crew was also transferred to other Black Sea Fleet vessels, Moscow said. The two missiles were Neptune anti-ship missiles, according to a senior US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Despite the uncertainty, the U.S. believes that Russians were killed in the attack, according to an American official. In light of the numerous conflicting reports, a touching’mourning ceremony’ was held for the crew of the Moskva in their home port of Sevastopol. Unofficially, the number of people who died was not disclosed, but the sombre ceremony, presided over by a priest, seemed to indicate that a significant number of people had perished.
‘To the ship and its crew’ was written on a wreath placed by a Black Fleet statue. ‘The explosion was so powerful that the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet sank in a matter of minutes,’ Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Kyiv Interior Ministry, said today. He said he learned of it from Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol. The large P-1000 cruise missile Vulkan’s warheads appeared to have detonated as a result of the fire. On board the cruiser, there were 16 of them Consequently, “the cruiser Moskva’s entire crew perished.”
Gerashchenko claimed that Anton Kuprin, the ship’s captain, was among those on board. The battleship had a crew of 510 sailors on board at all times. This, he claimed, was a deliberate effort to keep from crew members’ families and loved ones the truth about what happened. According to his version, a Turkish ship rescued more than 50 people, a claim that conflicts with earlier reports. Even if this version of events proves to be true, it would be yet another tragic loss for Putin’s army during their invasion of Ukraine. As many as 20,000 Russian soldiers are feared to have perished in the conflict. The director of a military think tank in Lviv, Mykhailo Samus, and the editor of Black Sea News, Andriy Klymenko, both of whom work for the Ukrainian newspaper Defence Express, have all warned that the Moskva may have been carrying two nuclear warheads intended for its P-1000 “carrier killer” missiles.
If the reports are accurate, the loss of the warheads into the Black Sea could lead to a “Broken Arrow” incident, a military slang term for a nuclear weapons accident that could result in mass casualties. There could be two nuclear warheads on board, Samus said, while Klymenko urged other Black Sea nations to demand an explanation from Moscow. ‘Where are these bombs?’ ‘Where were they when the ammo exploded?’ he inquired. Politician exiled from Russia for criticising Putin’s 2014 Crimea annexation, Ilya Ponomarev, claims that only 58 of the crew members have been found, raising the possibility that 452 men perished along with their ship, a devastating blow to Vladimir Putin’s already battered military.
Even if this figure is unconfirmed, it is consistent with losses on exploding warships. All but one of the Borodino’s 855 crew members perished in a ship explosion during the Russian Navy’s infamous defeat against the Japanese at the Battle of Tsushima. Footage from Sevastopol, Ukraine, shows dozens of cars purportedly belonging to the sailors still parked in the port overnight, suggesting that their owners had not returned to collect them. The commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Admiral Igor Osipov, who led the Moskva during the botched invasion, is rumoured to have been arrested, according to Ukrainian media.
Heavily armed Russian generals and 150 FSB officers have been detained for providing false information about Ukraine’s defences to the Kremlin, according to Leonid Nevzlin, a Russian-Israeli businessman who fled Russia in 2003 after being targeted by Vladimir Putin.