Ukraine claims commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was killed in Sevastopol attack

By Rob Picheta, Radina Gigova and Olga Voitovych, CNN

CNN  —  Ukraine has claimed it killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in one of Kyiv’s boldest attacks yet on the occupied peninsula of Crimea.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces said in an update that Friday’s attack killed Viktor Sokolov along with 33 other officers.

“After the hit of the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers were killed, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” the Ukrainians said Monday, adding that more than 100 other Russian servicemen were wounded.

CNN cannot independently confirm Ukraine’s claims about Solokov or the number of casualties. CNN has reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Moscow has said that one serviceman is missing as a result of Ukraine’s attack on Sevastopol.

Ukraine has increasingly been hitting strategic Russian targets in Crimea, the Black Sea region of southern Ukraine that has been occupied by Moscow since 2014.

On Friday it carried out perhaps the most daring strike so far; Kyiv officials said they successfully targeted a Russian command post near Verkhniosadove, a few kilometers from Sevastopol. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted that satellite imagery confirmed that Ukrainian forces “struck the 744th Communications Center of the Command of the Black Sea Fleet… as part of an apparent Ukrainian effort to target Black Sea Fleet facilities.”

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusov said Russia was using Crimea as a “logistics hub” and that “the ultimate goal, of course, is the de-occupation of Ukrainian Crimea.”

In a statement on Telegram, Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces said a special op dubbed “Crab Trap” was timed to strike while senior members of Russia’s Navy were meeting, and that the attack left dozens of dead and wounded “including the senior leadership of the fleet.”

Russia appointed Sokolov its new commander for its Crimea-based Black Sea fleet in August 2022, according to reports from state media outlet TASS at the time.

Sokolov had been serving as the Naval Academy chief since 2020. He served as the Northern Fleet deputy commander from 2013 until 2020. The change of command came amid heavy losses and a string of explosions at Russian military facilities in Crimea.

Sevastopol is the largest city in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine has not given up hope of reclaiming it.

Before Friday’s attack, Ukrainians had carried out a new series of strikes on Crimea. They hit a Russian military airfield at Saky, degraded Russian air defenses on the north-west coast, and carried out a missile attack on the main dry-dock and ship-repair facility in Sevastopol, crippling an attack submarine and a landing ship.

The attack on Saky caused unspecified but “serious damage” at the airfield, according to sources in Ukraine’s Security Services (SBU).

CNN’s Tim Lister contributed reporting

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