Russian flagship ‘abandoned too soon’ as new footage sinks Kremlin fire theory


The captain of the sunken Russian flagship may have given up too soon, experts suspected when new images of the wrecked ship emerged yesterday.

Scores of sailors are believed to be missing after the Moscow River was reportedly hit by Ukrainian missiles before sinking in the Black Sea last Thursday.

Russia has insisted the damage to the ship was instead caused by a munitions explosion in an unexplained fire that caused it to sink while being towed in rough seas.

New online images and footage, which have not been officially verified, appear to show the Moscow River ablaze and apparently abandoned, with analysts saying the damage seen on the hull contradicts the Russian version of events.

The damage appears to have occurred mainly in the midsection of the cruiser, well away from some of the boat’s main ordinances. Smoke billowing from the helicopter’s portholes and open hangar indicates significant internal fire damage, possibly explaining the possible loss of life.

It’s not clear if the helicopter had a chance of being deployed before the crew was either killed or evacuated.

A thick column of black smoke appears to be rising from a charred and burning section of the Moscow River, which is leaning to port and has her lifeboats abandoned.

Water hoses spray into the air, possibly from a nearby salvage ship.

The ship’s continued buoyancy, coupled with the absence of one of the 510 crew members on the upper decks, may indicate that the captain may have left the Moskva River too soon.

Tom Sharpe, a retired British Navy commander who once helped rescue the British ice patrol ship during a flood, said the ship appears to have been abandoned too soon.

He said: “You will always see a team, usually on the flight deck – in which case the flight deck would be a good place to gather your gear and firefighting teams.

“You want to set up safe zones and that’s where you put all your firefighting equipment and all your people, they’re out in the fresh air.

“But there’s nobody there, literally nobody, and if there’s nobody there, there’s almost no chance of anyone living below decks. It also suggests that all are from this ship.”

John Konrad, an author who has commanded civilian ships, wrote an analysis of the images which concluded that “the captain of the Moskva left ship too soon”. He pointed out that the flagship was vital to the Russian war effort and the captain would normally be expected to remain on board to attempt to rescue the ship.

In this case, despite “calm weather, reserve buoyancy” and “the fact that the helipad was smoke-free,” the ship appeared to have been abandoned, Mr. Konrad wrote.

But Mr Sharpe said there was too much uncertainty about the images to make that claim with certainty.

“You can just be unlucky,” he says. “You could suffer a massive detonation on another munition by the incoming missile and that rips out your entire command and control function, all your communications, all your systems, and then you’re done.

“At that point, you might as well get out because neither of you can do anything.”

But he added that the images appeared to undermine Russia’s own account of how the Moscow River met its fate. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian flagship ‘abandoned too soon’ as new footage sinks Kremlin fire theory

Fry Electronics Team

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