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Parent Of Missing Moskva Sailor Says He's Been Questioned By Russian Security And Had Laptop Seized

Dmitry Shkrebets (left) with his son, Yegor, who has been "missing" since Russia's Moskva battleship sank in the Black Sea in April.
Dmitry Shkrebets (left) with his son, Yegor, who has been "missing" since Russia's Moskva battleship sank in the Black Sea in April.

An outspoken parent of one of the sailors feared to have died in the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva says he’s been questioned at his home by Russia’s security services, who also seized his laptop.

Dmitry Shkrebets said he fears authorities will try to plant information on his computer to charge him under an article of the Russian Criminal Code that forbids reporting false information about an act of terrorism.

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“They definitely can’t find anything there because there’s nothing there. You cannot find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not there,” Skhrebets told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

On June 2, Shkrebets wrote on VKontakte, Russia’s largest social-media network, that agents from an unidentified security agency had visited his apartment and questioned him about alleged bomb threats.

"Apparently, it seemed to someone that the tragic death of my son did not shock me enough, not enough grief, not enough trouble," he wrote on VKontakte, which is known as VK. "Someone wanted to turn me into ‘scumbag’ terrorist."

According to Shkrebets, security service officers claimed that “under his name, messages were sent to some organizations with bomb threats by e-mail."

He denied these allegations, calling them "absurd."

His son, Yegor Shkrebets, was a cook aboard the guided-missile cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea when it was reportedly struck by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles on April 13 while far from shore. Moscow attributed the disaster to an ammunition explosion.

The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, which had about 500 crew members on board, caught fire and sank in stormy weather the following day, before reaching port.

The elder Shkrebets said naval officers contacted him shortly after the incident to say his 20-year-old son was not dead but rather included among the “missing,” a statement he seemed to find incredulous considering the circumstances.

He soon became one of the most vocal parents of the Moskva crew, demanding answers from authorities about their fate.

Shkrebets criticized the military authorities’ actions over the sinking of the Moskva, calling for punishment against “all those responsible” for letting conscripts take part in the war with Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin initially denied that conscripts were participating in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, yet later admitted they "take part."

'Vile Silence'

Shkrebets told Current Time that he continues to seek answers from authorities and vows he will not remain silent.

“Whether I succeed in getting those responsible held accountable…you understand, that I can only speak and write, the levers of power are in the hands of others,” Shkrebets said.

The virtual media blackout of the incident and its aftermath shocks Shkrebets.

“Try to find some fresh news on the Internet that relates to the Moskva cruiser! You won't find anything. Neither about the crew nor about the cruiser -- you will not find anything. I am amazed! How is it possible if we have a free society and a free country? Why don't we discuss this?” he asked.

Shkrebets also said he stirs clear of Russian state-run media, which has been under strict Kremlin rules about how to report on what is happening in Ukraine.

“Believe it or not, I haven't watched TV since April 17. I feel sick when I turn on the TV channels. I tried to turn it on to watch the news once -- I just felt sick, I turned it off. I don't watch TV anymore; I don't want to watch it. After this hypocrisy, this vile silence, I cannot forgive them.”

Three days after the Moskva sank, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a video -- broadcast on state-run media – which was said to show surviving crewmen from the guided-missile cruiser.

However, doubts quickly emerged regarding the authenticity of the footage.

Asked whether he still supports what Putin has termed Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Shkrebets declined to answer.

“I will not answer this question. I won't. I will keep my opinion on this to myself.”

Written by Tony Wesolowsky based on an interview by Timofei Rozhanskiy
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    Timofei Rozhanskiy

    Timofei Rozhanskiy is a correspondent in Riga for Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. Born in Russia, he graduated from St. Petersburg State University and also received film and video production training at Bard College in New York. Before joining Current Time’s Moscow bureau in 2019, Rozhanskiy worked for the independent Russian television channel TV Rain.

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