There was some question about how much stock should be placed in the videos released by Russia. Moscow has a well-established history of trying to sweep miliary embarrassments under the rug, most notably during this war when the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet was sunk.
Even when its plans appear to work out, the Kremlin sometimes likes to maintain a shroud of mystery.
It has declared no involvement, for example, when old adversaries turn up poisoned in other countries. And more recently, when the mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin died after his plane exploded, President Vladimir V. Putin offered a cryptic eulogy for a onetime ally who had briefly rebelled: He was a “talented man,” he said, with a “complicated fate.”
Still, Ukraine, too, has made claims during the war that have turned out to be inaccurate or, at least, unprovable. After the first video purporting to show Admiral Sokolov alive appeared in Russia, Ukrainian officials acknowledged that they might have made a mistake, but maintained that they still thought he was dead.
On Wednesday, Admiral Sokolov — or, at least, a figure who resembled him — did not limit himself to affairs military. A state-owned newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published an article saying that he had handed out an award that morning to the Black Sea Fleet’s soccer team.
There was evidence suggesting that the award ceremony may, in fact, have been a restaging of an earlier event, presumably to buttress the notion that the admiral was still alive. He himself, in response to a question, says on the video that the ceremony had been postponed.
Aric Toler contributed reporting.