Moskva's Missing: Russians Speak Out Over Relatives on Sunken Warship

The relatives of "missing" crew members of Russia's sunken missile cruiser Moskva have taken to social media to challenge Moscow's narrative on the fate of the Black Sea fleet vessel and its hundreds of personnel.

The Moskva missile cruiser, Russia's flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, sank hours after Ukraine claimed to have dealt significant damage to the vessel with a missile strike. Russia denied the claims, saying that any damage was caused by fire on board that led to some ammunition detonating.

The Kremlin claimed the Soviet-era vessel's roughly 500 personnel were successfully evacuated to other ships before being returned to the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on Friday.

Moscow has not publicly announced any possible casualties among the Moskva's crew members, but authorities have informed Russians that their relatives are "missing in action," according to social media posts on Russian social networking platform VKontakte.

Dmitry Shkrebets wrote on the social media website that his son Yegor Shkrebets was stationed on the vessel when it sunk. He said his son was added to the list of "missing people" after Moskva was destroyed.

"My son was a conscript. The direct commanders of the cruiser 'Moskva' told me that he is not listed among the dead or injured, and he is listed as missing. Guys, he went missing on the open sea?!" wrote Shkrebets, Latvia-based Russian language independent news outlet Meduza first reported.

Shkrebets said his son served as a chef on the vessel, and that he had been called for military service on July 2 last year.

"The cruiser's commander and his deputy stopped communicating after my attempts to clarify the details of the incident. I asked them directly: why are you officers alive and my son, a conscript, has died?" he continued.

He urged other VKontakte users to spread the word "so that the scum do not cover up this terrible tragedy," adding that he plans to dedicate his life to "make the truth prevail in this story."

According to Meduza, Shkrebets' original post was deleted, and he re-shared his story with the remarks: "It will be removed again soon."

Separately, VKontakte user Ulyana Tarasova wrote that she was informed by Russian authorities that her son Mark Tarasov went "missing" on the cruiser Moskva, Agentstvo News reported.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

The Russian ministry of defense told Russia's state-run newswire that the vessel "lost its stability due to damage to the hull received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition...during the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the port of destination."

"In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank," the Kremlin statement said. The ministry also reported that the entire crew was evacuated.

The Pentagon has been unable to confirm yet how the Russian vessel was destroyed.

Meanwhile, during an unofficial memorial service at a monument to the 300th anniversary of the Black Sea fleet was broadcast on state television on Saturday, a ribbon with the inscription "To the ship and sailors" could be seen on a wreath. It wasn't clear when the clip was filmed.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

Missile cruiser Moskva
Pro-Russian supporters wave flags as they welcome missile cruiser Moskva, a flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet, entering Sevastopol bay on September 10, 2008. The relatives of “missing” crew members have taken to social media to challenge Moscow’s narrative on the fate of the ship and its approximately 500 personnel. VASILY BATANOV/AFP/Getty Images