According to naval expert H.I. Hutton, Russia is launching a salvage crew to inspect the wreckage of the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva.
Hutton claims that the salvage operation will be carried out on the Kommuna, a 110-year-old salvage ship that is one of the oldest functioning warships.
“Kommuna is likely to be carrying a deep-diving submersible,” adds Hutton, explaining that the mission will look into what can be salvaged from the wreck.
Missile tubes, sensors, and bombs could all be recoverable. There was also a possibility that a Christian relic of the “True Cross” was aboard.
While there was speculation that the Moskva was carrying nuclear weapons, a senior US defence official stated in a Pentagon news briefing last Monday that there was “no evidence that there were nuclear weapons on board the Moskva when it went down.”
According to Hutton, the Moskva is likely far too huge for hull recovery.
“We’ve seen no efforts by the Russians to try to, as you put it, recover the Moskva,” said the US defence official. “This is a cruiser of some 600 feet. That would be an enormous engineering task to try to bring that ship up to the surface. We’ve seen no indication that they have shown any interest in doing that.”
For the first time since the sinking of the Moskva, Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged fatalities, saying that “one serviceman was killed, while another 27 crew members went missing,” according to reports.
“We can’t tell you how many survivors there were or how many sailors fell casualty to the ship sinking,” said the US defence official. “We just don’t know.”
On Friday, the Ukrainian intelligence agency stated that Admiral Osipov, head of the Black Sea Fleet, had been dismissed from his role and that his deputy was being investigated. The intelligence service noted that the dismissal was due to losses to the navy, particularly the Moskva.
According to a Ukrainian official, the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship drowned on April 14 after being severely damaged by an explosion caused by a missile strike.
Russia stated that a fire broke out onboard, exploding munitions stockpiles. The cause of the fire was not stated, although it was “under investigation.” The Ukrainian governor of the territory around the Black Sea port of Odesa, Maksym Marchenko, said two Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles had hit the Moskva.
Russia later reported that the fire was contained, but the damaged Moskva later sank when the Black Sea Fleet attempted to tow it to safety during a storm.
According to Russian news outlets, the Moskva, which was commissioned in 1982 as the Slava, is armed with 16 anti-ship Vulkan cruise missiles with a range of at least 700 kilometres (440 miles).