MYSTERY has surrounded the fate of Vladimir Putin's missing Admiral who may have been on flagship Moskva when it was sunk by Ukrainian missiles a month ago.
Igor Osipov has "not been seen alive" since then, sparking suggestions he was on board the vessel when it was hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles, say Kyiv sources.
Initially, Ukraine claimed the commander had been detained amid fury from Putin over the cruiser's sinking while others say he had been suspended.
This was never confirmed by Russian officials who this week insisted he was at his "combat post" but "not in the mood" to face the public.
Osipov, 49, was conspicuously absent from the Red Square Victory Day parade on Monday, which he would always attend.
He was also nowhere to be seen at events linked to Black Sea Fleet Day this week.
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At one event on 7 May, he was reported as being present only for his name to be removed later.
The governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev said: "Our commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Vladimirovich Osipov, is now at his combat post.
"Of course he is not in the mood for social networks and congratulations, but I’m sure he and our Black Sea people feel our support."
Several sources say Osipov has not been seen "alive" since the Black Sea Fleet flagship was sunk on 14 April.
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"The Black Sea Fleet is discussing whether Osipov could have been on board the cruiser Moskva at the time of the attack," said one pro-Kyiv source claiming to have inside information from the Russian navy.
And Russian Telegram channel VChK-OGPU said no-one has seen Osipov face to face for a month.
Osipov's signature appeared on documents recently but still hasn't been seen in public.
If he was on the warship, his fate would be covered by the obfuscation the Russian defence ministry has thrown over the incident, which it claimed was caused by an on-board fire not a missile strike.
Russia has so far admitted to one fatality on the Moskva, when it is clear many more were killed.
It is also known that many were wounded and have been receiving treatment in hospitals in several cities.
The father of a missing and presumed dead sailor on the battleship said after a meeting with top brass last week: "Figures of dead and wounded on the cruiser Moskva will be clarified by the Black Sea Fleet and Ministry of Defence when they consider it expedient."
Earlier he had accused them of a cover-up over the fate of the crew, around two-thirds of which are believed to have been conscripts.
Dad Dmitry Shkrebets said: "I hope that the causes of the absurd loss of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet will be investigated thoroughly by the military prosecutor's office and the FSB directorate…and the results will be made public to the people of Russia."
Putin was left fuming when a clip of the Moskva sinking were plastered all over social media.
It showed smoke pouring from the ship's side and a rescue tug boat sat idly nearby.
Meanwhile, returning Moskva conscripts have recounted that fateful day in April to friends and family, further infuriating Moscow.
One survivor broke down in tears as he told his mum how at least 40 crew members were killed during the attack, with “many missing” and maimed.
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Parents of another conscript say they have found out some 200 were wounded – many with horrific burns and other major injuries.
The new accounts strongly dispute the official Russian line of how Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea Fleet flagship was lost.
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