An official Kremlin statement has revealed the latest loss of commanding officers in the Russian military. This time aboard the Guided Missile Cruiser Moskva, not confirmed sunk by one or more Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles: “The commander of the cruiser ‘Moskva’, captain 1st rank – Kuprin Anton Valerievich – died during an explosion and fire on board.” In the Russian navy, Captain 1st rank would be the equivalent of a US navy Captain or Colonel in the other armed forces. This would make him the 34th officer of Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel rank in the Russian armed forces to die in action since the Ukraine War began.
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine also confirmed the death on his Telegram channel. He reasserts the ship was struck by Ukrainian cruiser missiles that detonated her ammunition on board and the ship sank in minutes from the explosion. This counters the Pentagon’s claim yesterday that the Moskva was afloat but severely damaged and under tow.
Of course, there was no mention of Ukraine’s Neptune missiles by the Kremlin, since the Russian public is probably more accustomed to the Russian navy losing ships to accidents than in combat. The Pentagon has since confirmed the Ukrainian claims that it was stuck by one or more Neptune missiles(The Pentagon is maintaining a diplomatic function here that it is not actively assisting Ukraine in things like this and sitting in the same room as they occur).
The fate of the crew of the Moskva is currently a cause for speculation even within Russia. Ilya Ponomarev, a member of Russia’s representative body the Dumas, said on his own Telegram channel, that local news reports only mention 50 crewmembers were rescued,
“..this means only 10 percent of the crew managed to be saved”.
More than just her crew may have been lost. As the Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet it is likely that a considerable number of the command staff of the fleet were aboard the ship at the time it was struck by the Neptune missiles. We may be hearing about more casualties among high-ranking Russian naval officers in the coming days.
It is well known that Russian ships are Brass-Heavy with as much as 20% of the crew being officers. On a flagship like the Moskva, it would not be unusual for several officers of captain rank to be aboard as liaison staff for admirals ashore in Sevastopol. Eager for combat assignments and the medals that tend to go with them, there is a good chance that the crew of the Moskva had even more officers aboard of high rank wanting sea time, combat pay, and to earn a place in the line for medals and awards from the Kremlin.
There are unconfirmed rumors that the Admiral of the Black Sea Fleet, Igor Osipov has been fired or even arrested and taken to Moscow. So he was probably not aboard, but wishing very much that he was I suspect.
Most of the Moskva’s Crew are Likely Dead
Today a “farewell ceremony” to the cruiser Moskva was to be held in Sevastopol at a monument in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Russian fleet. This was not a government-sanctioned event but one held spontaneously by the families of the missing crew. It is highly unusual that Russia has not shown the crew of the Moskva triumphantly disembarking from ships of the Black Sea Fleet after their heroic rescue from the burning ship. While the Kremlin would likely sequester them to prevent them from blowing up the official narrative that the cruiser was destroyed by an accidental fire and explosion, Russia would very much want to use the rescue of the surviving crew to bolster public morale.
If they had surviving crewmembers to put before the cameras that is.
If the Russian navy did indeed lose some 450 sailors in the sinking of the Moskva, they will have the distinction of suffering the largest(known at this point) mass casualty event in the Russian military during the Ukraine war.
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