Russia Refutes Ukrainian Claims of Fleet Commander’s Demise with Video Evidence

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In a new development concerning the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Russia’s Defence Ministry has publicised a video allegedly featuring Viktor Sokolov, the Black Sea Fleet’s commander. This release contradicts the Ukraine’s assertions suggesting that Admiral Sokolov had been killed.

The credibility of the filming date for the footage, which showcases Sokolov engaging in a video call with the Defence Minister, remains questionable. The Defence Ministry contends that the video was shot during Tuesday’s meeting with high-ranking officials.

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Contrary to this, Ukraine’s special forces had previously made claims on Monday that Adm Sokolov, alongside 33 other officers, had been vanquished in a missile attack at the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol; a region in occupied Crimea. Though they refrained from addressing the Admiral by name or providing any substantiating evidence to indicate his death, they have currently begun reevaluating these claims.

The Ukraine’s military forces proclaim that, “We are aware that 34 officers died in the wake of a missile strike targeted at the Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet Headquarters. In light of the condition of body parts, many victims still remain unidentified.”

The Russian Defence Ministry’s release of the video seems to have provoked Ukraine’s retraction and led to a definitive shift in its initial, confident tone. While the country’s new Defence Minister, Rustem Umerov, purportedly mentioned to CNN that “if Adm Sukolov was dead, it’s good news for everybody”, further confirmation is yet to come.

The video which spans eight minutes displays Minister Sergey Shoygu in conversation with other senior officials in Moscow. Momentarily, he can also be viewed on a video call with the commanders of Russia’s five fleets, including the Black Sea Fleet. Facial recognition corroborates the likeness between Adm Sokolov and the man featured in the recent video, hinting at the possibility of them being the same person.

Despite Ukraine’s claims of striking the fleet’s headquarters last Friday, doubts still persist regarding the veracity of the meeting’s occurrence on Tuesday and whether Adm Sokolov’s image presented on the video link was captured in real time.

The attack aimed at the Russian navy’s headquarters, a key symbol of Russia’s long-standing military presence in the region, was accompanied by social media footage displaying smoke billowing from the building. In response, Russia claimed to have deflected five missiles while one serviceman was reported missing subsequent to the attack.

In recent times, Kyiv’s forces have been regularly launching strikes against Russian troops based in Crimea. The Black Sea Fleet, operating from a platform used to attack Ukraine, is a significant symbol of Russia’s traditional military presence in the region. The fleet had its base in Crimea even before Russia unlawfully annexed the peninsula in 2014.

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