Rumors of Admiral Viktor Sokolov’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.
Ukraine on Monday claimed to have killed Sokolov — the commander of Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet — in an attack on the port of Sevastopol last week. But on Tuesday, Sokolov appeared, apparently alive and well, in video footage of a Kremlin defense meeting, published by Russian state-owned newswire RIA Novosti.
In an initial statement after last Friday’s attack, the Russian defense ministry said it had shot down five incoming missiles and only one serviceman was killed, though the fleet’s headquarters were damaged.
But reports about Sokolov’s death circulated online and Ukraine jumped Monday at the chance to announce his killing and say that it had inflicted huge casualties on the Russians in occupied Crimea. POLITICO could not independently verify the Ukrainian claims.
The missile barrage was the latest in Ukraine’s quest to liberate occupied Crimea, which Russian President Vladimir Putin seized in 2014. Two weeks ago, Ukraine wrecked a Russian submarine in the port of Sevastopol and also regained control of strategically important oil and gas drilling platforms located in the Black Sea.