Russian forces conducted a secret mission to remove bodies from the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that was sunk in mid-April by a Ukrainian missile strike, according to a media report.
Ukraine’s military intelligence claims that Russia carried out a two-week salvage operation involving seven vessels following the sinking.
“It comes amid a new claim that young naval sailors were ‘left to drown’ while ‘officers fled the ship like rats,’” according to Great Britain’s Daily Mail.
The estimate of casualties in the Moskva sinking varies from a single death reported by Russian officials in Moscow to as many as half of the ship’s 500 sailors, as reported by Ukrainian military analysts.
“They retrieved the bodies, removed all the equipment that was classified, and cleansed this cruiser,” Vadym Skibitskyi, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate, told the Daily Mail.
Some family members of the Russian sailors have accused the government of staging a cover-up of the sinking and its high death toll.
“There were no rescue efforts. Officers fled the ship like rats (and) the sailors were abandoned,” said Dmitry Shkrebetis, a father of one of the missing sailors, according to the Daily Mail.
“Want to know why there were no badly wounded sailors from the Moskva? Because they sank them together with the cruiser,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
He vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will “answer personally” for what happened to his son, Yegor, and the other sailors aboard the Moskva.
“He is used to lying,” Mr. Shkrebetis said.