The Ukrainian missile strike that hit the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the annexed Crimea reportedly killed 35 Russian military officers, including Admiral Viktor Sokolov, commander of the force. Another 105 were wounded.
Sokolov took command of the Black Sea Fleet in August 2022 after previously serving as deputy commander of the Northern Fleet. He is now the highest-ranking Russian naval officer to be killed in the ongoing conflict.
Friday’s attack was also seen as a symbolic strike to the heart of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which suffered a string of losses since the start of the war. It was just earlier this month that a Minsk Ropucha-class large landing ship was seriously damaged in another drone and missile strike, while the Rostov-on-Don, one of Moscow’s four improved Kilo-class submarines, was also hit by a missile and is unlikely to be returned to service.
This has been a black month for the Russian Navy, which has seen some of its worst days since the sinking of the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Moskva nearly a year and a half ago.
Operation Crab Trap
It was on Friday that the historic headquarters building of the Russian Navy was destroyed by a UK-made Storm Shadow missile. The strike, reported to be dubbed “Operation Crab Trap,” was carried out by the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
It was conducted to hit the Black Sea Fleet HQ “on time and on spot” to coincide with a meeting of the Russian Fleet’s leadership in Sevastopol. The Special Operations Forces passed on the data to the Ukrainian Air Force, which carried out the actual attack with modified Soviet-era Su-24 (NATO reporting name Fencer) fighter-bombers that can launch the British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles.
Though the Kremlin was quick to claim that there was only minor damage to the building and that a single Russian Navy sailor was missing following the missile strike; videos posted to social media showed the devastation to the HQ.
“The historic headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet were damaged,” the Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Friday, while further claiming its air defense systems had shot down five missiles.
Moscow has not confirmed the death of Sokolov, or that 34 additional officers were killed, but after the strike the kremlin warned residents that further attacks could follow and urged them to stay indoors.
The Latest Commanding Officer to Die in the War Against Ukraine
Sokolov may be the latest Russian senior military commander to be killed in Ukraine, and the first since Major-General Dmitry Ulyanov, commander of the 98th Guards Airborne Division, was killed in a firefight in February. Already, nearly a dozen senior commanders have been killed in the fighting – including several major generals and two lieutenant generals.
General Magomed Tushaev, a Chechen Special Forces leader, has the dubious distinction of being the first high-ranking officer killed in the conflict after his unit was ambushed on February 26, 2022 – just two days after the invasion began. Moscow has denied that he was killed, but there have been no confirmed sightings of Tushaev since.
The war in Ukraine has seen the highest number of high-ranking officers to be killed in a conflict since the Second World War.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.