Russia’s resurrected Black Sea Fleet commander is seen in a new video released by state-controlled media declaring that “life goes on” after rumors that he died in a Ukrainian missile attack.
Admiral Viktor Sokolov appeared to speak directly to reports of his death in comments to a reporter published by Izvestia. When asked to say a few words to the residents of Sevastopol about “what happened,” Sokolov replied: “And what happened? Nothing has happened.”
He further boasted that the Black Sea Fleet was “successfully” carrying out all its tasks.
Just two days earlier, Ukrainian officials said Sokolov was one of 34 senior Russian officers killed in a missile attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters on Friday. After the release of a video by the Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday showing Sokolov at a meeting of defense officials, Ukraine’s special forces said they would re-examine their information about Sokolov’s death.
Still, many expressed skepticism about the Russian Defense Ministry video, pointing to the unusual-looking chair in which Sokolov sat, asking whether he might be wounded and in a hospital. On Wednesday, videos circulated in Russian media showing Sokolov, completely unharmed, presenting awards to members of the Black Sea Fleet football team. However, the awards were presented for a game that took place on September 18, days before Ukraine’s attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters.
Additionally, the team only placed third, leaving the question open as to whether Russian defense officials had arranged the awards ceremony to showcase Sokolov in front of the cameras, or whether the event may have taken place earlier than announced.
Even Ukraine’s new defense minister, Rustem Umerov, declined to comment on Sokolov’s reported death in an interview with Sokolov CNN late Tuesday. When asked whether Sokolov was dead or alive, Umerov only replied that it would be “good news for everyone” if he were actually dead.