• War Ukraine says it has killed the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Victor Sokolov, reappeared in public on Tuesday after news spread about his death in an attack perpetrated by the Ukrainian army last Friday in the port of Sevastopol, in the annexed peninsula of Crimea. Sokolov apparently participated in a meeting of the Defense Ministry's board of directors, although he was not seen to intervene.

On September 22, the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched a missile attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in the annexed city of Sevastopol. Ukrainian military espionage chief Kyrylo Buddanov said days later in an interview with Voice of America that the attack had hit at least two high-ranking officers of the Russian Armed Forces, but avoided commenting on Sokolov. On Monday, Ukraine's Special Operations Forces announced that the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet had died as a result of the attack.

Russia says he is not dead. In the images released on Tuesday by the Russian Defense Ministry Sokolov appears on a large screen during the meeting of the staff of the Russian army, a videoconference chaired in Moscow by the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces reported on Monday not only the death of Sokolov but also that of another thirty soldiers as a result of the missile attack on the headquarters of the General Staff of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Kiev has stepped up its pressure on the Black Sea and the Crimean peninsula. Russian authorities admitted Friday that the attack damaged the historic building of the fleet's General Staff. They did not confirm any dead or wounded, although at first they spoke of a missing person.

Viktor Nikolaevich Sokolov was born in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The 61-year-old has led the fleet since September on a peninsula where naming ceremonies are now held discreetly to avoid attacks. On 6 June 2023, Sokolov was awarded the military rank of admiral. He has developed his military career in the Pacific since leaving the academy, in the final stretch of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Kiev reacted to the Russians' video, which calls into question not only the extent of their latest major attack but the sources of their intelligence services. The command of the Special Operations Forces (SSO) of Ukraine reported that it was clarifying these reports about Sokolov. "Since the Russians were hastily forced to spread a response with Sokolov supposedly alive, our units are clarifying the information."

When Kiev reported the casualties caused by its attack on Monday, it did not provide any evidence, and from Moscow Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov did not comment on Sokolov's possible death, referring the relevant issue to the Defense Ministry. Russia has lost top brass in this war, although Sokolov has an even more relevant profile. In July, Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov was killed after his hotel in the coastal city of Berdiansk in the partially occupied region of Zaporizhia was attacked.

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