Russian bloggers say fleet commander fired after latest Ukrainian ship attack

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 12:20 PM

(Reuters) – Russian military bloggers and a former Kremlin adviser said on Thursday that Moscow had fired the commander of its Black Sea fleet, a day after Ukraine said it had destroyed a large Russian ship.

There was no official confirmation of the dismissal of Admiral Viktor Sokolov. The Russian defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Sokolov took up his command in September 2022, according to the ministry’s website, a few months into Russia’s war in Ukraine. His appointment followed a series of humiliations for the Black Sea fleet, including the sinking of its lead warship, the Moskva, by Ukrainian missiles.

Despite the change of command, Russian warships have continued to take hits from Ukrainian forces whose own navy is tiny by comparison.

Ukraine has used uncrewed navy drones packed with explosives to attack Russian ships and try to drive them out of parts of the Black Sea, enabling it to open up a vital grain shipping corridor.

Ukraine said on Wednesday it had destroyed a Russian landing warship, the Tsezar Kunikov, off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea in a drone operation that breached the vessel’s port side and caused it to sink. There was no comment from Russia.

The Ukrainian military says that it has “destroyed” 25 Russian military vessels and ships and one submarine during the war to date.

The removal of Admiral Sokolov was reported by Russian military bloggers and by Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, without citing sources.

In the course of the war, Russia has frequently reshuffled senior military officers without making public announcements.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)