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The symbolic dimension of Friday's Ukrainian strike against the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol could take on a new dimension with the announcement by the Ukrainians of the death of its leader, Admiral Viktor Sokolov. This information has not been confirmed by the Russian authorities. This would be the highest-ranking general officer killed since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Six Russian generals died in action, according to a figure provided by MK Andrei Gurulev, himself a former general officer.
According to Kiev, Friday's strike in Sevastopol took place during a "meeting of Russian naval leaders," which was attended by Admiral Sokolov. The 61-year-old was born in Moldova and was appointed head of the Black Sea fleet last September. Western sources say he personally decided to strike civilian sites in Ukraine, making him liable to prosecution for war crimes.
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A considerable psychological dimension
A graduate of the Frunze Higher Naval School, Admiral Sokolov began his career on torpedo ships and minesweepers before holding high positions in the Pacific Fleet where he spent fifteen years. In 2013, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet. It was in this capacity that he led a combat campaign in the Mediterranean, off Syria, where a detachment of ships of the Northern Fleet was engaged, including the only Russian aircraft carrier, the "Admiral Kuznetsov", victim of several damages.
On August 10, 2022, by decree of the Russian Minister of Defense, he was appointed acting commander of the Black Sea Fleet, succeeding Admiral Igor Osipov. The following September, he was appointed commander of this fleet and received his Admiral Stars last March. The Ukrainian attack that led to his death, along with that of his most collaborators, requires a high level of intelligence and deals a serious psychological blow to the Russian defenders of the annexed peninsula, which is constantly targeted by drone and missile attacks. A military shipyard, very close to the Sevastopol General Staff building, was hit ten days ago and twenty-four people were wounded. Such attacks are unlikely to radically change the military situation in Crimea, which the Ukrainians have promised to reconquer. Strong lines of defense were established by the Russians. But the psychological dimension of the death of Admiral Sokolov would be considerable, for the morale of the army as well as for the population of the peninsula who live permanently scrutinizing the threats coming from the sky.