World News

“Hundreds died” after Ukraine sank Russia’s flagship Moscow

Mr Gerashchenko is a well-connected Ukrainian politician, but some of his allegations have proved unfounded in the past.

The Kremlin has not commented on the loss of life. Neither the Black Sea Fleet nor the local authorities in Sevastopol mention any casualties.

Similarities to Kursk

The official silence over the sinking of Moscow compared it to the Kremlin’s silence after the crash of the Kursk submarine in August 2000, a major scandal over newly appointed President Putin.

The nuclear submarine sank during an exercise in the Barents Sea over Russia’s Arctic Circle after a torpedo on board exploded in its hatch.

Most of the 118-member crew were killed immediately, but about 23 sailors remained in the semi-flooded area, awaiting rescue, which never came.

It took Mr Putin, still in his first year in office, a few days before he ended his sea vacation and left.

It later emerged that Russia had turned down international offers of help, and only nine years later a team of British and Norwegian divers managed to reach Kursk to find the bodies.

But in 2000, Mr Putin faced a huge outburst of grief and anger from sailors’ widows. The Russian media, unburdened by censorship, was scathing about his response to the disaster.

He dismissed blame for the post-Soviet military decline and attacked the media for criticizing him.

His popularity rating dropped significantly after the Kursk crash, prompting him to press the then-powerful independent television channels.

This time, when critical media is almost non-existent and Putin’s opponents are in prison, such an answer seems unlikely.