Dozens of Russian Sailors Missing After Missile Hits Warship in Crimea

In World

While Russian authorities have played down the fallout of Ukraine blasting one of its warships to smithereens in Crimea, dozens of Russian sailors have reportedly been deemed “missing without a trace” following the blast.

Citing anonymous sources on Wednesday, the independent outlet Astra reported that 23 people on board the Novocherkassk were injured in the Dec. 26 attack, in addition to 33 missing. 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—Moscow has confirmed only that the warship was “damaged” while ignoring the fate of the sailors.

But even that admission from defense officials was apparently an outrageous understatement.

The “damaged” ship is in fact blasted to bits and shards of it have been turning up all over the streets of Feodosia, where it was docked, according to local media.

The Novocherkassk, a landing ship in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, “completely burned and sank,” according to Astra, which reported that fragments of the British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles were found at the scene.

Authorities have insisted there were no injuries among the crew, with the ship’s commander, Nikolai Stepanenko, quoted telling Agentstvo: “Nobody’s injured, everything’s great.”

Footage purportedly capturing the missile strike showed a massive explosion, with the initial impact sparking a fire that then apparently set off munitions on board. Sergie Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, said one person died and two others were injured after the attack prompted a fire.

“Everyone who was on board at the time of the blast most likely died,” a retired captain from the Russian Navy was quoted telling Mozhem Obyasnit, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He said the sailors on board the ship would not have evacuated immediately, as protocol dictates that they first work to put the fire out themselves and save the vessel.

“Sailors can leave the ship only by order of the commander if he considers the situation hopeless. A powerful explosion of ammunition seemed to destroy the hull, and the remains of the ship sank instantly. I can’t imagine how anyone could survive there, except by sheer luck.”

Read More: Dozens of Russian Sailors Missing After Missile Hits Warship in Crimea

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