Russian Black Sea Fleet commander spotted in meeting after Ukraine claims he was killed

The commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet appeared at a meeting in footage released by the country’s defense ministry on Tuesday, leading Ukraine to say it was “clarifying” whether he was dead or alive – a day after it said it had killed him in a missile strike. .

Video and photographs emerged showing one of Moscow’s senior naval officers, Viktor Sokolov, participating in a video conference of military leaders led by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

NBC News has not verified when or where the footage was recorded.

It comes after Ukraine’s special operations forces said on Monday that a naval commander was among 34 officers killed in an attack on the occupied Crimean city of Sevastopol on Friday.

After the Russian Defense Ministry released the footage on Tuesday, Kiev said it was “clarifying the information”.

“As it is known, 34 officers were killed as a result of a missile attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. Available sources say that the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was one of the dead. Many others are still missing. The identification was due to a mismatch of body parts,” said the Special Operations Forces. Post on Telegram.

“Since the Russians were forced to urgently publish a response with Sokolov alive, our units are clarifying the information. This is happening within the procedure for collecting data on the results of the operation,” the post added.

Footage released Tuesday clearly shows Sokolow’s face appearing on a webcam with other senior military figures. At one point in the video, the date Tuesday – “26. 09. 2023” – is visible. His name badge reads “VN Sokolov” and the Cyrillic abbreviation for Black Sea Fleet appears on his screen.

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State media reported Sokolow’s virtual presence at the meeting, but did not say exactly when the meeting took place.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov twice declined to answer questions about Sokolov at his daily briefing with foreign journalists, instead referring questions to the Defense Ministry.

Victor Sokolov. Sergey Malkavko / ZUMA Press

Kyiv has not provided evidence that it killed the naval commander, making Sokolov one of the highest casualties among Russia’s top military officials since the war began.

During the meeting, Shoigu gave an update on Russia’s invasion and the creation of eight new military training centers to fast-track new recruits into the armed forces.

He also said that Kiev’s counteroffensive on the battlefield is failing. “Ukrainian armed forces are suffering heavy losses along the entire front line,” Shoigu said.

Russia’s bombing of key infrastructure continued, Ukraine said, with strikes on ports and agricultural centers late Monday.

Kyiv has been conducting its own strike campaign against Russian targets.

After Friday’s missile attack, Moscow said one of its service members was killed and that its defenses intercepted five missiles. It was later updated that the server was missing.

The port of Sevastopol is a major base for the Black Sea Fleet, which has been used to launch attacks deep into Ukraine.

Sokolov has been leading the fleet since August last year, the result of a major overhaul after the sinking of its Moskva flagship.

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