Ukraine has recorded a massive blow against Russia as its missile attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea last Friday, consumed its commander and more than 30 officers.
Ukraine named Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov, as the commander who was killed in the attack in Sevastopol, Crimea, which was illegally occupied by Russia since 2014.
“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.
The special forces unit did not name any of the other victims of the attack by one of the Storm Shadow air-launched missiles donated by Britain and France earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, previously said Col. Gen. Alexander Romanchuk, the commander of Russian forces on the southern front, and Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsekov were seriously wounded in the attack.
The Russian Defence Ministry, according to Reuters, has not denied the claim by Ukraine.
But the news agency reported that Moscow-installed authorities in Sevastopol were taking extra measures to address Ukraine’s increased attacks on Crimea, a critical region providing a platform from which Russia has launched many of its air attacks on Ukraine in the 19-month-long war.
If confirmed, Sokolov’s killing would be one of Kyiv’s most significant strikes on Crimea.
And it also provides Kyiv an opportunity to show the skeptical West that it is capable of retaking Crimea.
Sokolov, who was drafted in to beef up the faltering navy last year, was attending a meeting of top naval and military figures when the missile crashed into the building in Sevastopol, according to the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine.
A huge plume of black smoke was seen billowing from the building last Friday in one of Ukraine’s most stunning missile assaults of the war. The direct hit on the naval command center was a symbolic blow for Russia as the Black Sea Fleet has been a source of national pride since it was established by Catherine the Great in 1783.
President Vladimir Putin fired the commander of the fleet last year after it suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks including the sinking of its lead warship, the Moskva, and an attack on its air base in Crimea that saw eight warplanes destroyed.
Sokolov, who previously held a prestigious role as the head of a military academy, was brought back into active service to reinstate pride in the Black Sea Fleet.
His death—compounded by those of so many of his colleagues—in the heart of the fleet’s operation would represent a severe blow to that pride, reports Daily Beast.
Over the weekend, rumours on social media began to suggest that Sokolov had been caught up in the explosion. The Special Operations Forces posted its confirmation on Telegram on Monday.
In a statement after the attack, the Russian defence ministry said one serviceman was missing, revising an earlier statement that the man had been killed. Air defences had downed five missiles, the ministry said.