Russian forces 'begin secret operation to remove the dead from sunken cruiser Moskva' amid new claim that conscripts were 'left to drown' as officers 'fled the ship like rats'
- Russia has only admitted one casualty from the sinking of the flagship cruiser
- Ukraine intelligence says seven vessels carried out two-week salvage operation
- Father of one of the victims said officers abandoned drowning crew members
PUBLISHED: 18:35 AEST, 25 May 2022 | UPDATED: 18:35 AEST, 25 May 2022
Russian forces secretly conducted a macabre operation to remove the dead from the sunken cruiser Moskva, reports have claimed.
The flagship of Putin's Black Sea Fleet was sunk on 14 April by a suspected Ukrainian Neptune missile strike.
Russia has still not acknowledged the huge death toll, so far only admitting one casualty from the embarrassing blow to the Kremlin war effort.
But Ukrainian military intelligence has claimed 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'.
Russian forces secretly conducted a macabre operation to remove the dead from the sunken cruiser Moskva, reports have claimed
Admiral Igor Osipov, 49, in charge of the Black Sea Fleet, has not been seen since his flagship Moskva sank
Vadym Skibitskyi (pictured), spokesman for the Kyiv defence ministry's main intelligence directorate, said Russia carried out a two-week salvage operation
It is the largest Russian warship to be sunk since World War II and the first of a similar size since ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982
'They retrieved the bodies, removed all the equipment that was classified, and cleansed this cruiser,' said Vadym Skibitskyi, spokesman for the Kyiv defence ministry's main intelligence directorate.
'They took what wasn't supposed to fall into the hands of a third country.'
Ishi Svoikh Telegram channel added: 'It is completely unclear what happened to the bodies next.'
The latest claims confirmed an earlier Russian assertion that the holed vessel sank while under tow towards naval port Sevastopol.
The ship became infamous for a clip of a Ukrainian soldier telling the Russian warship 'go f*** yourself' at the outbreak of the war.
It is the largest Russian warship to be sunk since World War II and the first of a similar size since ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982.
The reported gruesome operation to retrieve the dead amid after rising fury from relatives of the crew over an alleged cover-up by the Russian authorities over the fate of many sailors, a large proportion of whom were conscripts.
Dmitry Shkrebets (left, pictured with his son Yegor, 20) is leading a campaign against the Russian cover-up
Conscript Yegor (left) poses with sailors just four days before the flagship was sunk
A father leading the campaign, Dmitry Shkrebets, 43, said: 'There were no rescue efforts. Officers fled the ship like rats, the sailors were abandoned.' He vowed: 'Putin will answer personally. He is used to lying.'
He told Putin: 'You'll answer!'
He lost his son Yegor, 20, in the sinking.
'Want to know why there were no badly wounded survivors from the Moskva?Because they sank them together with the cruiser.
'They couldn't tug the ship to Sevastopol, because everyone would realise what happened, so overnight from 13 to 14 April they pulled it further south, and sank it.
'This is the naked truth. The scary, awful truth, and I'll prove it.
'The time will pass, and I'll prove it. Look at the awful beasts we have as our authorities.'
The images show what appears to be damage to the left-hand side of the vessel close to the water line, smoke and fire damage along its left-hand side, missing lifeboats and open helicopter bay doors - suggesting the aircraft has taken off. A rescue ship also appears to be behind the stricken ship, spraying water jets
Leonid Savin (left) and Mukhammed Murtazaev (right) were conscripts who have not been seen since the sinking
Sergey Grudinin (left) and Nikita Efremenko (right) are among the hundreds feared killed in the strike
He confirmed his son was a conscript who had not signed a contract as a career member of the navy, like many others on the vessel.
'The pain is unstoppable,' he said.
'Were Yegor to have signed a contract, I would have been quiet, because that would mean he was trained and ready for war, but he didn't, and there are so many like him.
'The circumstances of their death are horrendous, they were betrayed and left to die.
'And now the top military officers must be fired. 'The time will come, and I'll publish a big investigation about what happened.
'I can say one thing right now: it is the highest ranks who are guilty in the death of the Moskva.
'There is betrayal and sloppiness there. I will say more about it later, if we live to see it.
'Our health got shaken by this because of the nerves. I am not the enemy to my country.'
Admiral Igor Osipov, 49, in charge of the Black Sea Fleet, has not been seen since his flagship Moskva sank, prompting rumours that he has been suspended or detained or was even on board.
But fleet sources say he remains at his desk but 'not in the mood' to attend events.