MOSCOW: Russia’s defence ministry published images showing the commander of its Black Sea fleet today, one day after Ukraine claimed it had killed the high-ranking officer in a missile strike.
Kyiv said it had killed 34 officers, including Admiral Viktor Sokolov, in an unprecedented strike last week on the fleet’s naval headquarters in the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Sokolov, in uniform, was shown via video link taking part in a meeting that was presided over by defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
A ministry statement said the meeting had taken place earlier in the day but did not name Sokolov.
He also appeared on screen several times in an eight-minute video released by the ministry but was not shown speaking.
The Kremlin had told reporters moments before the ministry’s statement that it had “no information” regarding the status of the commander and deferred questions to the defence ministry.
Later today, Ukrainian special forces said they were “clarifying” details of the strike last week.
“Many (killed officers) have not yet been identified because the body parts were scattered,” they said.
“Since the Russians were urgently forced to publish a response with Sokolov allegedly alive, our units are clarifying information,” it added.
The Kremlin had said on the day of the attack that one serviceman was missing after having initially announced that one person died.
The strike marked a major blow for Moscow, which has suffered a string of attacks on the strategically important port of Sevastopol in recent months.
Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 and is a key military and logistics hub for Moscow’s military.