Russian Federation (RF) authorities informed family members of dead crewman from the cruiser Moskva that the state will offer them no survivor compensation, because the warship sank by accident not in military action, and their son’s whereabouts are unknown, news reports on Friday, May 6, said.
A letter from the RF Black Sea Fleet’s (BSF) prosecutor general’s office sent to Dmitriy Shkrebets, father of Moskva crew member Egor Shkrebets, and made public on May 6, said the Moskva’s Apr. 14 sinking took place in international waters by accident. The warship, by a substantial margin the BSF’s most powerful weapon, was in international waters and had not been participating in combat operations against Ukraine, and the younger Shkrebets’ whereabouts is not known, the RF navy letter asserted.
The official RF navy decision disqualified the Shkrebets family from veterans’ survivor benefits including 12 million rubles ($135,000 USD at current exchange rates) promised by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a May 3 national address to immediate relatives of Russian soldiers and sailors killed in Ukraine-related fighting.
Ukrainian and international news agencies and military analysts agree the Moskva was the flagship and command and control center for BSF naval operations in the Black Sea since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The cruiser also served as the BSF’s main air defense platform for Russian warships within hundreds of kilometers. According to those analysts and Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) statements, a pair of Ukrainian anti-ship missiles fired from shore-based batteries in Ukraine’s Odesa region struck the Moskva on Apr. 13, setting deadly fires and forcing the crew to abandon ship. Her sinking was observed by civilian cargo ships in the vicinity.
RF authorities claimed only a few dozen sailors were killed in what they continue to describe as a “mishap”. According to practically all other sources, including Pentagon and British Defense Ministry analysts, between 100 and 400 members of the Moskva’s crew, including her captain, died following the missile strikes.
Ukrainian investigative media in April uncovered social media posts by the father Dmitriy Shkrebets calling for the elimination of Ukraine as a state, and that RF armed forces kill as many Ukrainians as possible. The senior Shrkebets however reversed his pro-RF public views after waiting two weeks for news of his son, hearing nothing from military authorities, and subsequently filing a formal complaint with the BSF’s prosecutor general’s office.
The Kremlin has tried to prevent news of heavy military casualties in its war in Ukraine from reaching the Russian public by downplaying the scale of battle defeats in RF state-controlled media and refusing to accept RF soldier corpses in UAF custody for repatriation to Russia.
Moscow’s claims of combat losses – currently around 1,500 dead in two months of fighting – are less than one tenth international estimates. The Ukrainian military currently claims its forces have killed at least 22,000 RF service personnel, and identified hundreds individually by name and unit.
Viktor Andrusiv, an advisor to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, in a May 6 statement said lists of RF military members known to have died or been taken as prisoner in Ukraine are available via the Ishchi Svoikh website (200RF.com). Access to the site is banned in Russia, but RF service member family and friends have accessed the site via VPN more than 20,000 times, and Ishchi Svoikh operators have processed more than 12,000 calls from persons looking for information about RF soldiers and sailors missing in action, Andrusiv said.