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Russia’s Black Sea commander alleged dead after strike against fleet’s HQ

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Admiral Viktor Sokolov

UPDATE: Speaking to Voice of America, Ukrainian intelligence chief Lt. General Kyrylo Budanov could not confirm the death of Admiral Sokolov at this point. The attack has resulted in nine dead and 16 wounded Russian military personnel according to Budanov; among the wounded is Col. General Alexander Romanchuk, the commander of Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia where Ukraine’s main offensive push is underway.

Russian Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has been killed following a missile strike against the fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukrainian authorities allege according to foreign policy analyst Jessica Berlin, who has been covering the war in Ukraine. There has been no official confirmation from Ukraine or Russia yet.

If confirmed, Adrmial Sokolov will be the highest-profile Russian officer killed in the war so far.

The missile strike took place earlier on Friday. According to eyewitness videos, the headquarters appears to have been struck by multiple Storm Shadow missiles.

The video above shows the headquarters in smoke as a second missile strikes.

Other videos show part of the building having collapsed with smoke rising from the ruins.

Crimea was simultaneously hit by an “unprecedented cyberattack” on its internet providers according to an advisor to the peninsula’s Russian governor.

Admiral Sokolov took command of the Black Sea Fleet in August 2022, six months into Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. He replaced Admiral Osipov reportedly due to a series of setbacks the fleet had suffered, most prominently the sinking of the cruiser Moskva, the fleet’s flagship. Moskva was sunk by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles in April 2022 leading to the deaths of hundreds of sailors.

During Sokolov’s tenure, the fleet’s vessels have targeted civilian infrastructure causing civilian casualties.

Russia’s Black Fleet is headquartered in the Crimean Peninsula, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014. Kyiv has repeatedly voiced its desire to liberate Crimea.

Ukraine has been stepping up its attacks against the Black Sea Fleet. Last week, it managed to take out a Russian Kilo-class submarine and a Ropucha-class landing ship while they were stationed at Sevastopol’s drydocks, which were also damaged in that attack. Ukraine had been degrading Russian anti-air defenses for weeks in preparation for that attack.

Ukraine has also launched a number of maritime drone attacks against the fleet’s vessels in the Black Sea.

Russia has moved part of the fleet from Sevastopol in order to protect it.

The Storm Shadow is a British-French long-range missile with a range of about 155 miles making it able to hit Russian targets well behind the conflict’s frontlines. In May, the U.K. confirmed that it had supplied a number of these missiles to Ukraine.

The missiles will give Ukraine “the best chance” to defend itself against Russia, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace had said at the time.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to mention the reported reason for Sokolov taking over the Black Sea Fleet’s command in August 2022 and the cyberattack against Crimea’s internet infrastructure.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.