New photos appear to show the doomed Russian Black Sea flagship Moskva ablaze moments before it sunk during a Ukrainian missile attack.
The guided-missile cruiser — the largest craft deployed against Ukraine so far — is seen in photographs and video that emerged Monday tilting precariously to its left side as thick smoke billows skyward.
A senior US defense official confirmed Friday that at least one Ukrainian missile struck the Moskva – contradicting the Kremlin’s insistence that the 600-foot-long ship, which carried nearly 500 sailors, had been damaged in an ammunition fire.
Moscow has claimed that the ship sank in bad weather while being towed after the ammunition fire.
The images of the burning warship, which were taken from a nearby vessel, were first shared on a Telegram messaging app that is believed to be linked to Russian security agencies, the Telegraph reported.
Its lifeboats appear to have been deployed.
Meanwhile, Russia on Saturday released video showing what it said were members of the doomed ship.
About 120 sailors and officers can be seen in the soundless footage standing at attention in uniform. The 26-second clip was posted to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Facebook page.
On Monday, the mother of a Moskva crewman who served as a cook said he was missing.
Irina Shkrebets told Russian news outlet The Insider that she and her husband went to a hospital in Crimea in search of their son, Yegor Shkrebets, and saw about 200 sailors with severe burns, the Telegraph reported.
“I saw every kid who got burns. I can’t describe how tough it was but I didn’t find my child,” the anguished mother reportedly told the outlet. “There were 200 people (at the hospital) while there were more than 500 people on the cruiser. Where’s the rest of them?”
Another woman told the Novaya Gazeta that her son has been hospitalized after the sinking and that dozens have been killed.
“My son was crying when he called me to say what he saw. It was terrifying. Clearly not everyone made it alive,” the woman told the outlet on condition of anonymity, according to the Telegraph.
“He said he’d never think he would end up in such a mince-grinder in peacetime,” she added.
Meanwhile, a Kremlin propagandist ripped the Russian navy for losing the vaunted vessel.
Vladimir Solovyov, who hosts a popular TV show, said he was “infuriated” at the loss of the Moskva.
“When we say that, yes, it was old, yes, it had been renovated, yes, that series of ships truly had vulnerable spots, old traumas, I get that,” Solovyov, 58, The Times of London reported.
“Just explain to me: how the hell did you manage to lose it? Explain to me: how the hell you ended up in that part of the Black Sea? At that time?” he said.
“I don’t care what happened, whether it was two Neptune missiles as the Ukrainians say,” Solovyov said. “Since when is a warship afraid of a missile strike when it has equipment protecting itself from such strikes?”
He added: “What’s with your fire protection system? Why did it not work and the ship practically burnt from the inside out?”
According to Ukrainian reports, the Moskva’s captain, Anton Kuprin, died in the sinking, but Russian media outlets said he was seen in the photos published by the Defense Ministry on Saturday.
Ukrainian media outlets also claim that Igor Osipov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was detained after the sinking but this has not been confirmed by the Kremlin, according to The Times of London.