Putin SACKS His Black Sea Naval Commander After Crimea Raids

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Putin SACKS His Black Sea Naval Commander After Crimea Raids

Russia has replaced Admiral
Igor Osipov, commander of its Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet, a state news agency
reported on Wednesday.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited
sources as saying Osipov has been replaced with Viktor Sokolov.

The move followed a series of
explosions that rocked the peninsula it annexed in 2014 and had previously
seen as a secure rear base for its war in Ukraine.

Moscow blamed saboteurs for
the blasts that engulfed an ammunition depot in northern Crimea on Tuesday.

Plumes of smoke were later
seen rising at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia’s
Kommersant newspaper said.

Ukraine has not officially
taken responsibility but has hinted at it.

The apparent Ukrainian
capability to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory, either with some
form of weapon or with sabotage, indicates a shift in the conflict. Blasts
destroyed warplanes at a Russian naval airbase in Crimea last week.

The replacement of Black Sea
Fleet commander would mark one of the most prominent sackings of a military
official so far in a war in which Russia has suffered heavy losses in men and
equipment.

State-owned RIA cited the
sources as saying the new chief was introduced to members of the fleet’s
military council in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The Black Sea Fleet, which has
a revered history in Russia, has suffered several humiliations since President
Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special
military operation” – on Feb. 24.

In April, Ukraine struck its
flagship, the Moskva, a huge cruiser, with Neptune missiles. It became the
biggest warship to be sunk in combat for 40 years.

Crimea, which Russia seized
from Ukraine in 2014 and has extensively fortified since then, provides the
main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, where Kyiv is
planning a counter-offensive in the coming weeks.

Ukrainian military
intelligence said in a statement that after the recent explosions in Crimea,
Russian forces had urgently moved some of their planes and helicopters deeper
into the peninsula and to airfields inside Russia.

 

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