December 1, 2023

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The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was seen in a meeting after Ukraine said it killed him

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was seen in a meeting after Ukraine said it killed him

The commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet appeared at a meeting in footage released by the country’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday, prompting Ukraine to say it was “clarifying” whether he was alive or dead – a day after it claimed to have killed him in a missile strike. .

The video and photos appear to show Viktor Sokolov, a senior naval officer in Moscow, participating in a video conference of military leaders led by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

NBC News has not verified when or where the footage was recorded.

This comes after Ukrainian special operations forces announced on Monday that the fleet commander was among 34 officers killed in an attack in the city of Sevastopol in the occupied Crimean peninsula on Friday.

After the Russian Defense Ministry released the footage on Tuesday, Kiev said it “clarifies the information.”

“As is known, 34 officers were killed as a result of a missile attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. Available sources claim that the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was among the dead. Many still have not been identified,” the Special Operations Forces said in a statement. Because of the disparity of the fragments.” Posted on Telegram.

The publication added: “Since the Russians urgently had to publish an answer with Sokolov apparently alive, our units are clarifying the information. This is happening within the procedures for collecting data on the results of the operation.”

The footage released on Tuesday clearly shows Sokolov’s face appearing via webcam alongside other prominent military figures. At one point in the video, the date Tuesday – “9/26/2023” – appears. His name badge reads “VN Sokolov” and his screen displays the Cyrillic abbreviation for the Black Sea Fleet.

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State media also reported Sokolov’s virtual attendance at the meeting, though they did not say exactly when the meeting took place.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov twice refused to answer questions about Sokolov in his daily briefing with foreign journalists, instead directing questions to the Defense Ministry.

Kiev did not provide evidence for the claim that it killed the fleet commander, which would make Sokolov one of the most prominent victims among senior Russian military officers since the start of the war.

Sokolov has been leading the fleet since August last year, as a result of a major cabinet reshuffle after the sinking of the flagship Moskva.

Victor Sokolov. Sergey Maljavko / Zuma Press

He rose through a series of positions in the Pacific Fleet and the Northern Fleet, serving as deputy commander of the latter, according to Russian state media.

Since 2020, he has headed a prestigious military academy before assuming command of the Black Sea Fleet.

The port of Sevastopol is the main base of the fleet, which is used to launch attacks deep into Ukraine.

Kiev is waging its own campaign of strikes against Russian targets, increasingly hitting the Crimean peninsula it annexed.

Shortly after Friday’s missile attack there, Moscow said one of its service members was killed and its defenses intercepted five missiles. It was later updated to say the soldier was missing.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Shoigu gave an update on the Russian invasion and the establishment of eight new military training centers to speed up new recruits into the armed forces.

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He also said that Kiev’s counterattack on the battlefield was a failure. “The Ukrainian armed forces are suffering heavy losses along the entire front line,” Shoigu said.

Ukraine said Russian bombing of key infrastructure continued, with strikes on ports and agricultural centers late on Monday.