Moskva sank in the Black Sea reportedly after being hit by two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles on April 13. The Kremlin’s line on the cause of the loss was notably different.
Russia’s Defence Ministry told TASS: “While being towed… towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded.
“Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank.”
Moscow is now working to recover secrets from the ship in the hope of preventing important intelligence from falling into Ukraine’s hands, according to reports.
H I Sutton, a naval expert quoted in Forbes, said a flotilla of eight ships have been sent out on a salvage mission.
This, he added, includes the world’s oldest active warship, the Russian auxiliary Kommuna.
The main function of this vessel is to raise objects out of the water, raising suspicions over what Moscow is attempting to recover.
A senior US defence official earlier this week told reporters there is no indication attempts are being made to “recover” the whole ship.
They said: “That would be an enormous engineering task to – to try to bring that ship up to the surface.
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It could also be that the salvage crew have been tasked with covering over the number of Russians who died in the sinking.
Forbes reported: “There might be bodies, of course.
“The Kremlin was quick to circulate video of the cruiser’s survivors, but the footage depicted at most a couple hundred of the 500 or so men who likely were aboard Moskva at the time of her sinking.”
Moscow has been tight-lipped about the number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine since it launched its invasion in late February.
It last released an official death figure in late March, though this was understood to have been well below the true level.
The Pentagon has played down reports there could have been nuclear weapons onboard Moskva at the time of its sinking.
The official cited above again told reporters: “We have no indications that there were nuclear weapons on board the Moskva when it went down.”
No images of the rescue operation have been made available.