Putin shakes up naval leadership by firing Black Sea fleet head Viktor Sokolov: reports

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shaking up his naval leadership as the war with Ukraine enters its third year, according to unconfirmed reports by military bloggers and a former Kremlin advisor.  Admiral Viktor Sokolov, head of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was reportedly canned Thursday the day after Ukraine claimed it destroyed an amphibious Russian warship, the Caesar Kunikov, in a naval drone strike operation off the coast of Crimea.

Sokolov’s removal was reported by Russian military bloggers and Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, although no sources were cited.

Vice-Admiral Sergey Pinchuk, Sokolov’s deputy, will fill the position while the Kremlin looks for his long-term replacement, Markov said on Telegram, Fox News reported.

“The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been replaced,” Markov wrote in a Telegram post. “This decision has been met with great understanding and approval in Russia.”

The former naval leader was appointed commander of the Black Sea fleet in September 2022, just months after Russia invaded Ukraine. He took the post following a series of embarrassing losses to Kyiv, including after Ukrainian missiles sank Russia’s lead military vessel, the Moskva.

Sokolov previously was believed to have been killed when Ukraine erroneously claimed he had been among nearly three dozen officers killed in September during Kyiv’s Black Sea counteroffensive.

Ukraine has bombarded Russian ships with drones carrying explosives to expel Moscow’s forces from the Black Sea, which would open up a crucial route for grain exports.

Kyiv claims it has downed 25 Russian military vessels and one submarine, or roughly a third of its Black Sea fleet, since the outset of the war.

Russia has not confirmed any details about Sokolov’s firing or his successor.


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