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Russian Admiral Viktor Sokolov shown on video call after Ukraine said it killed him in missile strike

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Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was shown on Russian state television on Tuesday attending a defence leaders’ meeting remotely, a day after Ukrainian special forces said they had killed him.

In video and photographs released by the defence ministry, Sokolov was shown as one of several fleet commanders on video apparently joining an in-person meeting of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and other army chiefs, although not speaking.

Sokolov was seemingly seated with a pillow behind his head. It was not clear when the video was filmed.

Ukraine’s special forces said on Monday that Sokolov had been 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, seized from Ukraine in 2014.

In response to the Russian video, the Ukraine special forces said on Telegram: “Since the Russians were urgently forced to publish a response with Sokolov allegedly alive, our units are clarifying the information”.

Admiral Viktor Sokolov (bottom left on big screen) attending via video link a meeting and presided by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry via EPA-EFE

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declined to comment on the Ukrainian claim, referring reporters to the ministry.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, interviewed by CNN, neither confirmed nor denied Sokolov’s death, but said his demise could only be a good thing for all concerned.

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“He is in our temporary occupied territories … he should not be there at all,” CNN quoted Umerov as saying on its website.

“So, if he’s dead, it’s good news for everybody that we are continuing to de-occupy our territory.”

In the video, Shoigu said more than 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in September and that more than 2,700 weapons, including seven American Bradley fighting vehicles, had been destroyed.

The battlefield claims could not be independently verified. Each side has at times exaggerated enemy losses in the war and says little about its own losses.

“The Ukrainian armed forces are suffering serious losses along the entire front line,” Shoigu said, adding that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had so far produced no results.

“The United States and its allies continue to arm the armed forces of Ukraine, and the Kyiv regime throws untrained soldiers to the slaughter in senseless assaults,” Shoigu said.

The moment a missile hits the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. Photo: Crimean Telegram channel via AP

Kyiv’s counteroffensive has yet to seize much territory from Russian forces, which control about 17.5 per cent of Ukraine’s internationally recognised territory.

According to a September 19 scorecard by the Belfer Centre at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Russia has gained 91 sq km (35 sq miles) from Ukraine in the past month while Ukrainian forces have taken 41 sq km from Russian forces.

Additional reporting by Tribune News Service

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