Images have emerged which appear to give a first glimpse at Russia flagship Moskva after it was blown up by Ukrainian missiles last week before it sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea.
The pictures, which seem to have been taken from a rescue vessel alongside the stricken Russian warship, show damage its left side along with flames burning below deck and a thick pall of black smoke rising into the sky.
Moskva is shown sitting low in the water, leaning to the port side, and appears to have deployed its lifeboats with no crew visible on board. Its rear helicopter door is also open, suggesting the aircraft has taken off. There also seems to be a firefighting ship behind the vessel which is spraying jets of water into the air.
Multiple black marks scar the port-side of the ship, including several near deck-level where smoke appears to have streamed out of portholes and left marks on the paint. But there are also dark marks close to the waterline that don’t match the position of portholes and suggest the ship has sustained external damage.
The images are largely consistent with Ukrainian descriptions of the sinking – that the Moskva was hit by two missiles on its port side which sparked a fire and caused it to roll – and contradict Russia’s account which was that the ship suffered a fire and internal explosion in rough seas.
Video has also since emerged which appears to show two rescue vessels approaching the burning ship – one to the left side and one to the right – in which a Russian voice can be heard speaking. One man says ‘what the f*** are you doing?’ before the short clip ends.
Analysts and experts who reviewed the images say they do appear genuine. It is unlikely that Russia will confirm the authenticity of the pictures, amid a near-total information blackout around the sinking which is a huge embarrassment to Vladimir Putin’s beleaguered armed forces.
Moscow did stage what appeared to be a parade of crew members in the port of Sevastopol – in occupied Crimea – on Sunday, during which the captain of the warship and between 150 and 250 members of its crew were shown on camera alongside Black Sea Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov. The Moskva typically carries up to 510 sailors, and there was no word on the whereabouts of the remaining crew or their condition.
But horror accounts of the sinking have started to emerge from conscripts serving on board the ship, with one telling his parents that at least 40 members of the crew were killed with ‘many’ left missing or maimed with lost limbs after the strike. Hundreds are thought to have died as the vessel went down.
Images have emerged which appear to show the Russian warship Moskva heavily damaged and on fire in the Black Sea shortly before it sank. The picture shows heavy damage to the left side of the vessel, which is largely consistent with Ukrainian accounts that they shot it with two missiles before it rolled and went under
The pictures seem to contradict Russian accounts of the sinking, after Moscow claimed the warship sank in choppy seas while being towed to the port of Sevastopol following an explosion on board
Moskva (pictured last leaving port on April 10) got into trouble on April 14 while sailing around 60 miles off the coast of Odesa – Ukraine’s largest port – before Moscow confirmed she had sunk on April 15
Parents of another conscript say they have found out some 200 were wounded – many with horrific burns and other major injuries.
‘I first heard from him only on 15 April, two days after the incident,’ a distraught mother told Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading investigative media outlet which is now operating outside Russia after being gagged by Putin.
‘My son said the cruiser was hit from the land, from the Ukrainian side, because the fire on board would not have started without a reason. There are people who were killed, wounded and missing.
‘My son called me as soon as they were given phones [after being rescued]. Their documents and phones were on the cruiser. He called me, and he cried over what he had seen. It was horrendous. Clearly not everyone survived.’
She said: ‘Most of the wounded have limbs torn off, because of the explosions from both the missiles and the detonated ammunition. My son was crying when he called me on 15 April.
‘He said: ‘Mamochka (tender for mum), I never thought I’d get into such a mess during supposedly peaceful times. I won’t even tell you the details of what I’ve seen, it was so horrendous.’
The mother said: ‘I don’t want to share his name because I am scared to damage my son. They signed non-disclosure agreements before boarding the cruiser. Please understand me, I am terrified. I am petrified, and I don’t know how I will wait for my son to return.’
She indicated that the Defence Ministry is stopping the survivors from going home, perhaps to prevent accounts of the calamity for Putin reaching the outside world.
‘I’ve no idea how I’ll live through this while waiting for my son to return, waiting for him to finish his service. It’s awful. And the [state] media, of course, doesn’t give any details. Why? Because the Ministry of Defence doesn’t want to admit defeat by Ukraine. It doesn’t want to admit that such a cruiser sank.’
Separately, a father has vowed to find out the truth about his conscript son Yegor Shkrebets, 20, a ship’s cook on the Moskva, now missing presumed dead.
Russia has remained tight-lipped about the fate of Moskva’s crew, but on Sunday released this footage which it claimed showed the ship’s complement on parade in Sevastopol
Footage showed the ship’s captain – Anton Kuprin (centre) – parading in front of his men, which were estimated to number between 150 and 250. Moskva typically carries up to 510 men, and Russia did not say what had happened to them
Anton Kuprin (left), captain of the Moskva, salutes Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, the commander in charge of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet which the vessel led as the flagship
Moskva was a Soviet-era guided missile destroyer that was designed to taken on US aircraft carriers with large amounts of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles
Dmitry, from Yalta in annexed Crimea, said: ‘It was reported [by Russian state media] that the entire crew had been evacuated. It is a lie. A blatant and cynical lie. My son is a conscript, and as I was informed by the immediate commanders of the cruiser Moskva, he is not among the dead and wounded and is included in the list of missing.
‘A conscript who was not supposed to take part in hostilities is listed as missing….missing on the high seas. After my attempts to clarify the data on the incident, the cruiser commander and his deputy stopped communicating.
‘I asked directly: How come you, the officers, are alive, and my son, a conscript soldier, died?’
The father said: ‘They tried to tow the cruiser to Sevastopol, but on the way it suddenly sank. Keep thinking for yourselves. I, Dmitry Shkrebets, the father of this conscript Yegor Shkrebets ask everyone who is not afraid and not indifferent.
‘Spread this appeal of mine wherever you have the opportunity so that the bastards do not hush up this terrible tragedy. Take care of your children, take care of each other. And I will devote my whole future life to ensuring that the truth wins in this story. A man whose son was taken away in such a vile way is not afraid of anything.
‘Thank you for not being indifferent. Soon they will delete this post again, so copy it.’
He implies that his earlier post was deleted by the VK – Russian social media – administration.
Yegor’s mother Irina Shkrebets told The Insider and said that she and her husband had been to a hospital in Skalistaya Bay, where they brought the wounded from the cruiser.
According to her, there were about 200 injured sailors. Irina said: ‘We looked at every burned [young sailor]. I cannot express how hard it is, but I didn’t find mine. There were only 200 there, and there were more than five hundred on the cruiser.
‘Where are the others? We turned to Krasnodar, and other [cities], called everyone, but we couldn’t find him.’
Her son had been conscripted in August and was involved in the incident when the Moskva took Snake Island early in the war. After the Moskva was sunk, she said: ‘We went to the unit. The commander came out, threw up his hands and said: “I won’t tell you anything.”
‘I said: “Where is my son?”, and he said: “Well, somewhere in the sea.” My husband began to argue: “What does it mean in the sea? Where have you been?” But unit commander refused to answer. These commanders were not on the ship.’
The parents tried to get an answer from the FSB – the Russian Federal Security Service, the main domestic security agency. ‘We arrived at the FSB in Sevastopol, where even a man refused to come out – they were standing behind the fence,’ she said. ‘My husband shouted: “Come out and call the police. Let me punch you in the face.”
‘He didn’t even come out, behind bars he showed his hands criss-cross, to say goodbye, that’s all. This is the service of the navy and the FSB of Sevastopol.’
They tried to get the authorities to show them the list of the dead and missing, but were refused. A commander who was on the ship also contacted Irina.
She recalled: ‘I said: “Can you at least tell me how my son died?” And he said: “I don’t know anything, they were at the supply post. We had missiles all over the cruiser.” He could not say and somehow did not say that a missile had actually hit the cruiser.’
Media outlet Agentstvo identified another conscript Mark Tarasov, 24, who was called up after studying at university. His mother Ulyana Tarasova, 47, posted on her social media accounts on April 17: ‘My son, Tarasov Mark, went missing on the Cruiser Moskva.’
Her son graduated from St. Petersburg State Transport University and was called up in autumn 2021, she said. She posted pictures from the railway station when she saw him off to military service.
Taras himself posted pictures with the caption: ‘See you in a year’.
Agentsvo got in touch with the woman – a friend – who was pictured with Taras on one of the farewell pictures. She confirmed that he had gone to service in the navy.
Earlier, Taras – now presumed dead – had travelled to Portugal, Sweden and Greece.
Naval chief Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov, 60, admitted at the weekend that there had been conscripts on board – despite assurances from the Kremlin that they would not fight in the war.