Ukrainian special forces claimed Monday that they had killed a senior admiral of Moscow in Crimea along with 33 other officers in the missile attack last week on the command centre of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol.
However, there has been no comment from Moscow to confirm or deny that Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet and one of Russia’s most senior navy leaders, had been killed.
However, to counter Ukraine’s escalating strikes on Crimea, a crucial region serving as a base from which Russia has launched the majority of its air attacks on Ukraine during the 19-month conflict, Moscow-installed authorities in Sevastopol were taking further precautions.
Upon confirmation, Sokolov’s killing would rank among Kyiv’s most crucial strikes against Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, from Ukraine.
“After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored,” Ukraine’s special forces said on the Telegram messaging app.
It was not immediately clear how Ukraine’s Special Forces counted the dead and wounded in the attack, as each side has at times exaggerated enemy losses in the war and says little about its own losses, according to Reuters.
The Russian defence ministry initially stated that one serviceman had been killed, followed by a revision of the statement announcing that one serviceman was missing after the strike. The ministry’s statement also revealed that five missiles were taken down by air defences.
Ukraine has stepped up its attacks in the Black Sea and on the Crimean Peninsula and 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.
The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol held a meeting Monday to improve defence and attack warning systems, indicating the severity of the recent Ukrainian attacks.
“We understand that we have moved into a new situation that requires a systemic response,” Russian agencies cited the governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, as telling its government.
“Earlier, we and our military faced attacks from unmanned vehicles … Now everything has changed and we must be prepared for this kind of threat.”