Numerous Russian sailors are said to have gone “missing without a trace” after the explosion, even though Russian authorities have downplayed the consequences of Ukraine blowing up one of their warships in Crimea.
The independent publication Astra claimed on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, that there were 33 persons reported missing and 23 injured from the attack on December 26 on board the Novocherkassk. Moscow has only confirmed that the warship was “damaged,” ignoring the fate of the sailors, in scenes reminiscent of last year’s Moskva warship fiasco—in which the Russian Defense Ministry desperately tried to conceal sailor deaths from a similar Ukrainian attack.
However, it seems that even that admission made by defense officials was a gross understatement.
According to local media, the “damaged” ship was blasted to pieces, and pieces have been found scattered throughout Feodosia, the city where it was docked.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet landing ship Novocherkassk “completely burned and sank,” according to Astra, which also said that pieces of the Storm Shadow cruise missiles that the British had supplied were discovered at the site.
According to reports from the authorities, the ship’s commander, Nikolai Stepanenko, told Agentstvo that “nobody’s injured, everything’s great.”
A huge explosion was captured on video that appeared to show the missile strike. The initial impact caused a fire, which subsequently appeared to ignite the weapons on board. The head of Crimea, Sergie Aksyonov, who has the support of Russia, said that the attack caused a fire, in which one person died and two others were injured.
Speaking under anonymity, a retired Russian Navy captain was reported as saying to Mozhem Obyasnit, “Everyone who was on board at the time of the blast most likely died.” According to him, the sailors on board would not have left right away because it is customary for them to attempt to extinguish the fire and preserve the ship before leaving.
The commander must give the order for sailors to leave the ship if he believes there is no chance of recovery. The hull appeared to be destroyed by a strong explosion of ammunition, and the ship’s remnants quickly sank. How anyone could survive there, other than by pure luck, is beyond me.