The commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, previously believed to have perished in the destruction of its headquarters in occupied Sevastopol last week, seems to have survived based on a video released by the Russian defense ministry.
On Monday, Ukrainian officials publicly asserted that Admiral Viktor Sokolov was one of the 34 senior officers who lost their lives in a missile attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters last Friday, dealing a significant blow to the Russian war effort.
Russia remained silent regarding the specific claims made by Ukraine, presumably recognizing the impossibility of positively portraying the destruction of what should have been the most secure structure on the Crimean peninsula.
However, on Tuesday, Admiral Sokolov briefly appeared in a video of a meeting chaired by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, effectively refuting the Ukrainian allegations.
The vice admiral appeared briefly, participating in the meeting via video link, dressed in his uniform, propped up with a pillow. His face showed no signs of injury, but his eyes appeared to be closed behind his glasses.
While this brief appearance may not have been entirely convincing, a still photograph released shortly thereafter depicted Sokolov with his glasses removed and his eyes open, though he still appeared to be resting against a pillow, suggesting he might be recovering in a hospital bed.
Russian authorities have a history of manipulating video evidence to portray deceased, injured, or disfavored commanders as active. Conversely, Ukrainian commanders have previously announced the deaths of Russian military leaders who later turned out to be alive.
The question of whether Admiral Sokolov’s career can endure the destruction of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, considering the fleet’s pivotal role in projecting Russian military power, remains to be addressed on another occasion. Sokolov’s predecessor was dismissed last year following the loss of the fleet’s flagship cruiser, the Moskva.
In the video released on Tuesday, Defense Minister Shoigu claimed that over 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers had lost their lives in September, with seven American Bradley fighting vehicles destroyed, according to Reuters.
Shoigu asserted, “The Ukrainian armed forces are sustaining significant losses across the entire front line,” while also dismissing the effectiveness of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. He went on to say, “The United States and its allies continue to supply arms to the Ukrainian armed forces, and the Kyiv regime deploys untrained soldiers in futile offensives.”