Russia’s back-from-the-dead commander of the Black Sea Fleet has appeared in a new video released by state-controlled media declaring that “life goes on” after he was rumored to have died in a Ukrainian missile strike.
Admiral Viktor Sokolov appeared to comment directly on reports of his death in comments to a reporter published by Izvestia. Asked to say a few words to residents of Sevastopol regarding “what happened,” Sokolov replied: “And what happened? Nothing happened.”
He went on to boast of how the Black Sea Fleet is “successfully” fulfilling all of its tasks.
Just two days earlier, Ukrainian officials said Sokolov was among 34 senior Russian officers killed in a missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on Friday. Following the release of a video on Tuesday by Russia’s Defense Ministry—in which Sokolov was shown attending a meeting of defense officials—Ukraine’s Special Operations forces said they were double checking their information on Sokolov’s death.
Nonetheless, many had expressed skepticism about the Russian Defense Ministry’s video, pointing to the unusual-looking chair Sokolov was seated in to question if perhaps he was wounded and in a hospital. Videos circulated in Russian media on Wednesday showing Sokolov completely unscathed and walking about as he handed out awards to members of the Black Sea Fleet’s soccer team. The awards, however, were distributed for a match that took place on Sept. 18, days before Ukraine’s attack on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters.
Moreover, the team took only third place, leaving lingering questions about whether Russian defense officials arranged the awards ceremony to trot Sokolov out before the cameras, or if the event may have taken place earlier than indicated.
Even Ukraine’s new defense minister, Rustem Umerov, declined to comment on Sokolov’s reported death in an interview with CNN late Tuesday. Asked to confirm whether Sokolov was dead or alive, Umerov said only that it would be “good news for everybody” if he were in fact dead.