MOSCOW, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was shown on Tuesday remotely attending a meeting of defense chiefs, a day after Ukrainian special forces said he had been killed.
In video and photos released by the Defense Ministry, Sokolov was shown in the video as one of several naval commanders who apparently attended the in-person meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other military leaders, but did not speak. It is unclear when the video was shot.
Ukraine’s special forces said Monday that Sokolov was killed along with 33 other officers in a missile attack last week on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In response to the Russian video, Ukraine’s special forces said in a telegram: “As the Russians were urgently forced to issue a response with Sokolo, who is said to be alive, our units are clarifying the information.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the Ukrainian claim, referring reporters to the ministry.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, in an interview with CNN, neither confirmed nor denied Sokolov’s death, but said his passing would only be a good thing for everyone involved.
“He is in our temporarily occupied territories… he should never be there,” CNN quoted Umerov as saying on his website.
“So, if he dies, it’s good news for everyone that we continue to clear our territory.”
In the video, Shoigu said more than 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in September and more than 2,700 weapons were destroyed, including seven American Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield claims.
“Ukrainian armed forces are suffering heavy losses along the entire front line,” Shoigu said, adding that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has so far yielded no results.
“The United States and its allies continue to arm Ukraine’s armed forces, and the Kyiv regime pushes untrained soldiers to slaughter in senseless attacks,” Shoigu said.
Kyiv’s counteroffensive has yet to wrest more territory from Russian forces, which control 17.5% of Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.
According to a Sept. 19 scorecard from the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Russia won Ukrainian forces have captured 35 square miles (91 sq km) of Ukraine and 16 square miles (41 sq km) from Russian forces in the past month.
Guy Falconbridge Report; Editing: Mark Trevelyan, Gareth Jones, Alex Richardson, Ron Popsky and Timothy Gardner
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