Russia remains silent as Ukraine claims Black Sea Fleet commander among 34 officers killed

Ukraine has claimed that the commander of Russia's Black Sea Feet, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, has been killed in the Ukrainian attack in Sevastopol on Friday (Reuters)
Ukraine has claimed that the commander of Russia's Black Sea Feet, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, has been killed in the Ukrainian attack in Sevastopol on Friday (Reuters)

Russia continues to be silent on the reported death in Crimea of one of Vladimir Putin’s top navy commanders.

Admiral Viktor Sokolov, one of Russia’s most senior naval officers who commanded the Black Sea Fleet, was reportedly killed along with 33 other officers in a missile attack on the Russian fleet’s headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol on 22 September.

In a rare acknowledgment of a strike on Crimea, Ukraine’s special forces declared the operation had killed Sokolov along with dozens of other officers and wounded 105 others in an update on Monday. Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, posted the admiral’s name and a photo on social media.

It is not immediately clear how Ukraine’s Special Forces counted the dead and wounded in the attack.

The Russian defence ministry has not issued any statement to confirm or deny that Sokolov had been killed. In its most recent statement about the attack, the Russian defence ministry said just one serviceman was missing, revising an earlier statement that a man had been killed. The statement claimed Russian air defences had downed five missiles.

If confirmed, Sokolov’s killing would be one of Kyiv’s most significant strikes on Crimea, which Russia seized and illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Sokolov would then become the 16th senior commander to have been killed since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

Among the 15 previously reported killed are Major General Vladimir Frolov, the deputy commander of Russia’s 8th army, Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, and Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, the first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army.

In its update on the Sevastopol strike, Ukraine’s special forces said the air force fired 12 missiles on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters as it targeted areas where personnel, military equipment and weapons were concentrated.

Two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were hit, the special forces said.

Moscow-installed authorities in Sevastopol are reported to be taking extra defensive measures in the face of Ukraine’s increased attacks on Crimea in recent days.

Sevastopol is a critical region providing a platform from which Russia has launched many of its air attacks on Ukraine in the 19-month-long war.

Ukraine has steadily ramped up its attacks in the Black Sea and on the Crimean Peninsula and has started using missiles in addition to assault drones. Kyiv has said that destroying the Russian Black Sea fleet would significantly speed up the end of the war.

Ukraine resumed its missile strikes on Monday with an attack on a military airfield in Sevastopol. The city remained under an air raid alert for a short while during and after the airstrike.