he first picture appearing to show Russian cruiser Moskva moments before it sank have now emerged, according to reports.
It seems to match the Moskva and appear to show multiple lifeboats in the Black Sea around the damaged vessel which was surrounded by black smoke.
Russians admitted its flagship warship had sunk after an ammunition explosion. Ukrainian defence chiefs said it hit the ship with neptune anti-ship missiles.
It remains unclear how many of the crew survived from the flagship amid claims the dead may run into the hundreds.
All the lifeboats on the port side are seen to have been deployed which suggests a significant number of crew could have escaped the warship.
Russia has claimed all 500 crew members were rescued on Wednesday. Ukrainian officials have said some of those onboard died including the ship’s captain.
The new images appear “consistent with an anti-ship missile strike”, said independent open-source analysts questioned by authoritative The Maritime Executive.
They said: “It appears to show two holes amidships at the waterline, just below the stacks on the port side. Significant fire damage is visible above decks, and the ship has a pronounced list to port.
“Black smoke marks at multiple hull penetrations near the main deck level are consistent with an internal fire running aft of the site of impact, according to analysts.”
The images show a calm sea, contrary to official Russian reports claiming there was a storm or rough seas.
The ship’s normal crew complement was 510 but at a parade involving “survivors” held afterwards in Sevastopol, only around 150 were present according to footage supplied to the Russian media by the Defence Ministry.
No explanation was given for the missing sailors, nor about possible wounded seamen.
A source told Russian media VHCK-OGPU – which has links to ruling circles in Moscow – that the cruiser sank shortly after these pictures were taken.
If true, this means the Russian government statements that it sank under tow back to port Sevastopol area false.
“According to the source, shortly after this photograph was taken, the cruiser Moskva sank,” said the outlet.
“The source said that the photo of the sinking cruiser Moskva was taken from a Turkish ship. Earlier, VHCK-OGPU reported that Turkish sailors rescued 54 crew members of the cruiser. These photos show that all life rafts are missing from the sinking cruiser Moscow.
“It was on them that the crew was saved. According to Turkey (this was reported by the VCHK-OGPU), at 1.05 an SOS signal was received from the cruiser, on which the nearest ships moved to the crash site, including the Turkish ship that saved 54 sailors.”