About the only thing certain about the Russian war ship Moskva is that it is now at the bottom of the sea. But days after it sank, key questions remain, including how it got there and how many members of its 500-plus crew were injured or worse. Ukraine says it sank the ship with missiles—and the Pentagon believes it—but Russia denies that and says the ship sank in stormy seas while being towed after an onboard fire broke out. On Monday, photos and video appearing to show the damaged ship before it went down emerged on the messaging app Telegram, reports the Moscow Times. The images, which show the ship listing and parts of it engulfed in smoke, have not been verified as authentic.
“I believe the video is real," journalist Yoruk Isik, an expert on Russian ships, tells the Guardian. "It is the Moskva." Even if so, the images won't do much to settle the mystery of what caused the ship to go down. However, the Guardian points out that the ships' lifeboats are gone, suggesting that the crew was able to escape. Over the weekend, Russia's defense ministry posted new footage of what it described as a gathering of Moskva sailors, but the Moscow Times notes that only about 100 sailors were present. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Moskva's sinking has led to a lively public debate in Russia.
“Just explain to me how you managed to lose it,” said Vladimir Solovyev on his prime-time talk show, one that usually sticks to Kremlin talking points. He also openly speculated that Ukraine might indeed have sunk the ship, at odds with Russia's official line. Also of note: director Vladimir Bortko, a former member of Russia's parliament, publicly blamed Ukraine for the sinking and said Russia must retaliate, per the Times. "The special military operation has ended, it ended last night when our motherland was attacked,” he said, using the term that Moscow has stipulated in place of "war." He added that "the attack on our territory is casus belli, an absolute cause for war for real.” (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)