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Admiral Igor Osipov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, hasn’t been seen alive since Putin's missile cruiser Moskva was sunk on April 14.
While official reports claimed that the admiral was “not in the mood” to face the public, there are now growing suspicions that he was on board the most powerful surface vessel in the region when it was struck by two Ukrainian R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles and sank while it was being towed to port for repairs.
Independent sources suggest that dozens – possibly hundreds – died on the Moskva, but Russia only officially acknowledged one death with a further 37 crew members unaccounted for.
Intercepted communications from the ship as it sank reveal a desperate SOS: "Moskva-1 – two holes, propeller stalled, sinking, lying on its side."
The radio operator shouts that there is a hole below the waterline and a roll of 30 degrees.
He says "there is no way to get closer" to the tugboats.
"We’re doing our best to save the crew," he adds.
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Russian sources initially tried to deny the sinking altogether – even releasing a now-debunked video showing the ship’s crew seemingly alive and well. The clip was later revealed to be at least a year old.
Osipov, 49, was notably missing from Monday’s Red Square Victory Day parade – an event he would have ben expected to attend.
He was also nowhere to be seen at events linked to Black Sea Fleet Day this week.
At one event on May 7, he was reported as being present – only for his name to be removed later.
The governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said: “Our commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Vladimirovich Osipov, is now at his combat post.
“Of course he is not in the mood for social networks and congratulations, but I’m sure he and our Black Sea people feel our support.”
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Despite this, several sources say that Osipov has not been seen alive since the Black Sea Fleet flagship was sunk on 14 April.
"The Black Sea Fleet is discussing whether Osipov could have been on board the cruiser Moskva at the time of the attack,” said one pro-Kyiv source claiming to have inside information from the Russian navy .
And Russian Telegram channel VChK-OGPU said no-one has seen Osipov face to face for a month.
Osipov's name has appeared as if he signed documents recently – but evidently he has not been seen in person.
If he was on the warship, his fate would be covered by the obfuscation the Russian defence ministry has thrown over the incident, which it claimed was caused by an on-board fire not a missile strike.
Russia has so far admitted to one fatality on the Moskva, when it is clear many more were killed.
It is also known that many were wounded and have been receiving treatment in hospitals in several cities.
The father of a missing – presumed dad – sailor on the battleship said after a meeting with top brass last week: “Figures of dead and wounded on the cruiser Moskva will be clarified by the Black Sea Fleet and Ministry of Defence when they consider it expedient.”
Earlier he had accused them of a cover-up over the fate of the crew, around two-thirds of which are believed to have been conscripts.
The father – Dmitry Shkrebets – said: “I hope that the causes of the absurd loss of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet will be investigated thoroughly by the military prosecutor's office and the FSB directorate…and the results will be made public to the people of Russia.”
- Russia Ukraine war
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