Putin suffers another huge loss as captain of Russian flagship Moskva dead in attack

Ukraine: Russia's Black Sea Moskva flagship sinks

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First Rank Captain Anton Kuprin, 44, is said to have died after the lead Russian warship was fatally hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles. Anton Gerashenko, adviser to the Kyiv interior ministry, said he “died during an explosion and fire on board the former flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation”. The official added: “We do not mourn.” Russia claimed the crew was evacuated but there is mounting speculation of reported deaths among the battleship.

Former Russian politician Ilya Ponomarev, who in 2014 was the only MP to vote against Putin’s annexation of Crimea, said he believes just 58 out of a usual crew number of 510 survived the missile hit.

Russia has yet to go public about the possible death of Kuprin, but Moscow has also not announced the deaths of many prominent military personnel since the war in Ukraine began nearly two months ago.

The Moskva sank after an explosion and fire that Ukraine claimed was caused by a missile strike.

The Russian Defence Ministry did not make reference to this, and instead said: “While the cruiser ‘Moskva’ was being towed to the destination port, the ship lost stability due to damage to the hull from the fire.

“In the stormy sea conditions, the ship sank.”

But there are also mounting fears among Ukrainian sources there were several nuclear missiles onboard the vessel which sank off Sevastopol.

BlackSeaNews editor-in-chief Andriy Klymenko said: “Friends and experts say that there are two nuclear warheads for cruise missiles on board the Moskva.

He asked: “Where are these warheads? Where were they when the ammunition exploded? Where is the point on the map, the coordinates?

“This is with the competence of the UN Security Council, and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”

Mykhailo Samus, deputy director of the Lviv-based Centre for Army Studies, Conversion and Disarmament, warned: “On board the Moskva could be nuclear warheads – two units.”

The expert believes they would be in a “protected place” so “most likely they were not damaged by the explosion”.

Ukrainian online newspaper Defense Express also reported: “The Moskva missile cruiser, which overturned and began to sink after being hit by R-360 Neptune missiles, is a carrier of nuclear weapons.

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“In particular, these are anti-ship missiles P-1000 ‘Vulkan’, of which the ship has 16 units.

“Each of them can be equipped with a nuclear warhead with a capacity of 350 kt or a conventional 500-kg high-explosive cumulative.

“This information is not a secret at all, because this cruiser is designed to destroy aircraft carrier strike groups.

“But the main issue is the placement of P-1000 missiles.

“That is, are nuclear munitions always on board, or are they loaded only by special order?”

The report continued: “Defense Express interviewed experts, including designers and naval officers, who unanimously and independently gave the following answer – there is a real possibility that the affected flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet could have had nuclear munitions on board.

“The fact is that the missile cruiser Moskva was part of the Black Sea Fleet’s forces of constant readiness.

“As such, after an order, it had to go out to sea in minimum time to perform combat missions.

“At the same time, the replacement of P-500/1000 missiles is far from a trivial task and …requires significant time.”

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