In the secrecy that often surrounds wars, and in the realm of information warfare, losses are often deliberately underreported or completely omitted. But this case in Crimean port city of Sevastopol is pure paradox.
SEVASTOPOL — A year after its sinking near Snake Island, a monument to the crew of the sunken rescue tug Vasily Bekh was unveiled at the Russian Navy's Black Sea base of Sevastopol, according to independent Russian news sites agents.media (Agenstvo). For the past year, the Russian Ministry of Defense has never publicly reported the ship’s loss.
On June 17, 2022, the Ukrainian navy announced that they had struck the tugboat while it was carrying military equipment, personnel and ammunition to resupply Snake Island, which Russian forces occupied at the time.
The photos of the monument were taken by Dmitry Shkrebets, father a sailor killed on another sunken vessel, the Russian Moskva cruiser, which Ukrainian forces sank on April 14, 2022.
He said that only the Navy's press service was allowed to take photos of the monument, and all guests had their phones confiscated. Military police allegedly ensured that no one took any pictures.
Despite this, Shkrebets claimed that he was provided with a photo of the monument before the unveiling. In the picture, the names on the plaque are covered.
On Saturday, June 17, 2023, exactly one year after the disappearance of the rescue tug SB-739 "Spasatel Vasily Bekh", a monument to the deceased crew was unveiled on the territory of the military unit.
Not eligible for compensation
According to Shkrebets, it took the surviving members of the tugboat’s crew and the relatives of the deceased crew members nine months of "bureaucratic struggle" to get the authorities to acknowledge that the vessel participated in what Russia calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Seven civilians and four military personnel were killed.
The command of the Russian Black Sea Fleet claimed that the tugboat's crew voluntarily entered the "special operation" zone without orders from the leadership of the Black Sea Fleet, according to Shkrebets, referring to the documents he saw.
Shkrebets claims that there were 19 civilian crew members and 14 military personnel on the tugboat. As a result of the Ukrainian strike, seven civilians and four military personnel were killed.
One of the surviving crew members informed Agenstvo that they are not eligible to receive compensation because Russian President Vladimir Putin has not issued a decree concerning social guarantees for civilian personnel of the Ministry of Defense.
Nevertheless, he noted, many ships manned by civilian crews from the emergency rescue unit and the support fleet of the Black Sea Fleet are participating in the “special military operation."