Ukraine claimed it killed Russia's Black Sea Fleet admiral, Viktor Solokov, in a Friday strike.
That would be a "remarkable achievement," ex-NATO commander James Stavridis said.
On Tuesday Russia released footage suggesting the admiral was still alive.
Ukraine killing a Russian admiral in Crimea would be a "remarkable achievement" by Kyiv, a retired four-star admiral said.
Ret. US Navy Admiral James Stavridis praised Ukraine in a Monday post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
It was after the country's special forces claimed that a Friday strike on a Russian headquarters in Sevastopol killed a top commander.
Ukraine said that 34 officers died, including the fleet commander, Admiral Viktor Sokolov. It said 105 other people were wounded in the attack.
If confirmed, Sokolov's death would mean an admiral had been killed in combat for the first time since World War II, said Stavridis, who was also NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe.
"This is a remarkable achievement by Ukraine eliminating a very significant Russian military leader and many of his subordinates," Stavridis wrote. "I believe you have to go back to WWII to find other admiral killed in combat."
However, on Tuesday Russia released footage appearing to show that Sokolov was alive:
In response to that, Ukraine said it was working to confirm whether Sokolov had indeed been killed.
The last admiral recorded to have died in combat was Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, who was commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Combined Fleet during World War II.
He was killed in April 1943 by the US Air Force, which shot down his plane over the South Pacific.
Ukraine said it attacked the headquarters during a meeting between high-ranking officers.
Ukrainian Special Forces leader Kyrylo Budanov told Voice of America that two senior Russian officers, Colonel-General Alexander Romanchuk and Lieutenant General Oleg Tsekov were wounded.
According to Ukrainian media, the attack was enabled by Russian officers, who were upset that their salaries weren't being paid on time and fed information about the high-ranking commanders to pro-Ukrainian resistance fighters in Russian-occupied Crimea.
On Friday, several Western-provided Storm Shadow cruise missiles struck the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters, amid recent Ukraine's accelerated pace of attacks on Crimea.
Russian state media outlet TASS published a photo of the smoking Sevastopol headquarters, acknowledging the missile attack.
Moscow has been using Crimea as a launching pad for its attacks on Ukraine, and the peninsula serves as a base for aircraft and warships hitting from the south.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has agreed to supply Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which have a range of up to 190 miles and are known for their precision and a warhead that produces a blast equivalent to 500 pounds of TNT.
September 27, 2023: This story has been updated to reflect Russia's release of footage appearing to show Admiral Viktor Sokolov alive.
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