The commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, declared dead by the Ukrainian military on Monday but purportedly shown in a video released by Moscow on Tuesday, appeared in another unverified video released by a Russian state TV channel on Wednesday.
The latest video, along with comments by the commander published in Russian news outlets on Wednesday, appeared to be a concerted effort by Moscow to end speculation over his status, even as Ukraine has maintained that it believes he was killed along with dozens of other officers in a strike on the Russian naval headquarters in Crimea last week.
In the undated video, published on Wednesday by Zvezda, a TV network run by the Ministry of Defense, a man identified as the commander, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, praises the Black Sea Fleet for “fulfilling goals that are set by the command.” A local news outlet in Crimea published its own account of the interview in which it says that Admiral Sokolov was responding to a reporter’s question about the Ukrainian strike. The article quotes Admiral Sokolov as saying: “What happened to us? Nothing happened to us. Life goes on.”
Separately, a state-owned newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published an article saying that Admiral Sokolov had handed out an award to the Black Sea Fleet’s soccer team on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, in an effort to respond to Ukraine’s claims about the strike, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video that showed a man who appeared to be Admiral Sokolov remotely attending a meeting with the defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, and other top military officials. A Sept. 26 time stamp on the clip matched the date in the video’s metadata, but the timing and authenticity of the video could not be verified.
After the release of that video, Ukrainian officials acknowledged some uncertainty over Admiral Sokolov’s fate. The Ukrainian military released a statement saying that it was “clarifying” information about the results of the strike on Friday on the Russian naval headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Still, it maintained that Admiral Sokolov was among the dead, along with 33 other Russian officers.
Russian officials have not commented directly on the status of any of the officers, and have not reported any deaths as a result of the attack. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said on Tuesday that responding to Ukraine’s claims about the admiral was “exclusively the prerogative” of the Ministry of Defense.
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