As families seek truth, Kremlin refuses to discuss Moskva sinking

Spokesman says Kremlin ‘not authorised’ to release information about fate of warship’s crew after its sinking last week.

The Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser
The 12,500-tonne Moskva was armed with multiple anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles [File: Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

Relatives of sailors who were on board Russia’s guided-missile cruiser Moskva have been demanding answers about their missing family members following the sinking of the vessel last week.

Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and a linchpin of its weeks-long offensive in southern and central Ukraine, sank in the Black Sea on April 14 after being damaged by a fire. Ukraine claimed the vessel was taken out in a missile attack, while Russia said the fire was the result of exploding munitions and the ship sank in a storm as it was being towed to port.

As parents and other family members of sailors who served on board the warship – which is able to carry up to 680 sailors – called for the truth, Russian authorities said the crew had been evacuated – but provided no other details.

Asked to comment on the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to provide an update.

“All communication is only through the defence ministry,” he told reporters. “All information regarding this is issued by the defence ministry and here we are not authorised to release anything.”

The ministry on Saturday published video of the head of the navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, meeting on a parade ground with about 100 sailors it said were members of the crew.

In recent days, several families have said on social media or in statements to independent Russian or foreign press that they cannot find their children who were serving on the Moskva.

Dmitry Shkrebets said his conscript son Yegor was a cook on the ship and was now listed as missing in action.

“A conscript who was not supposed to take part in hostilities is listed as missing,” he said in a post on VKontakte, Russia’s largest social network.

He said that after he tried to learn more, the commander of the cruiser and his deputy had gone incommunicado.

On Monday, Shkrebets said he had been in touch with three more families whose conscripted sons had also gone missing after the sinking.

“We need written answers to our questions about the location of our children,” Shkrebets said.

Meduza, an independent Russian-language news website, citing a source close to the Black Sea command, said 37 members of the Moskva’s crew had died.

About 100 men were wounded, while the precise number of missing is unknown, the publication said. Some 500 people were on board when the Moskva was hit, Meduza said, citing the source.

The report could not be independently verified.

The Soviet-era vessel was thought to be located in the Black Sea somewhere off the Ukrainian port of Odesa at the time of the fire.

Previously, it has been deployed during conflicts in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine and helped conduct peacetime scientific research with the United States.

The 12,500-tonne Moskva was armed with multiple anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, and was the only ship of its class in the Black Sea. Russia’s two other missile cruisers – the Marshal Ustinov and the Varyag – are deployed with Russia’s Northern and Pacific fleets respectively.

Source: News Agencies