Russian Black Sea commander seen in video after Ukraine said it killed him

Viktor Solokov, Moscow’s top admiral in Crimea, was shown in a Russian defence ministry video conference after allegedly being killed in a weekend missile attack.

Viktor Sokolov, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, has been shown attending a meeting a day after Ukrainian special forces claimed he died in a barrage of missiles.

In video and photographs released by the Russian defence ministry and shown on state television on Tuesday, Sokolov is seen taking part in a video conference with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and other top admirals and army chiefs.

Ukraine’s special forces said on Monday that Sokolov was killed in the Russian-annexed peninsula along with 33 other officers in a missile attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol.

The statement added 105 others were wounded in the strikes.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Viktor Sokolov (L) appears on the screen at the meeting that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu holds with Ministry officials in Moscow on September 26, 2023 [Russian Defense Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

While the report did not name Sokolov, Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, posted the admiral’s name and a photo on social media.

The defence ministry released a statement saying the meeting had taken place earlier in the day. Sokolov appears on screen several times without speaking.

Russia has suffered a string of attacks on the strategically important port of Sevastopol in recent months.

‘Senseless slaughter’

Sokolov was appointed commander of the Black Sea Fleet in September 2022.

According to media reports, his predecessor was removed after Ukraine’s sinking of the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, a few months after Moscow’s full-scale war against Ukraine began.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the Ukrainian claim about Sokolov’s demise, referring reporters to the defence ministry.

In the video released by the ministry, Shoigu said more than 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in September and 2,700 weapons, including seven American Bradley fighting vehicles, were destroyed.

“The Ukrainian armed forces are suffering serious losses along the entire front line,” Shoigu said, adding the Ukrainian counteroffensive had so far produced no results.

“The United States and its allies continue to arm the armed forces of Ukraine, and the Kyiv regime throws untrained soldiers to their slaughter in senseless assaults,” Shoigu said.

Kyiv’s offensive continues

Ukraine’s counteroffensive has yet to yield significant territorial gains against Russian forces, which control about 17.5 percent of the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine.

According to a September 19 scorecard by the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Russia has gained 90 sq km (35 square miles) of territory from Ukraine in the past month while Ukrainian forces have taken 41 sq km (16 square miles) from Russian forces.

Kyiv has stepped up attacks in the Black Sea and on the Crimean Peninsula as its forces press on with the nearly four-month-old counteroffensive to take back Russian-occupied territory.

Russian territory, including the capital Moscow, has been subject to numerous drone attacks in recent months.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies