Russia has changed the commander of its Black Sea fleet based in Crimea, a state news agency reported on Wednesday.
Crimea is a peninsula of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014, and has since been under Russian control. The region was seen as a safe base for the Russian Navy in the war with Ukraine, but there were explosions that hit an ammunition depot in the north of the peninsula.
On the same day, clouds of smoke were seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, according to Russian newspaper “Kommersant”.
Explosions had already destroyed warplanes at a Russian air base in Crimea last week.
The Russian government blamed saboteurs for the attacks and explosions.
Ukraine did not officially take responsibility, but insinuated that she was the author of the attacks. This indicates that the Ukrainians now have the capability to attack areas far from the border of Russian-occupied territory, either with some kind of weapon or with sabotage.
A cloud of smoke formed after the first explosion at a Russian military base in Crimea, on Aug. 9, 2022. — Photo: via AP
On Wednesday, Russian news agency RIA reported, citing sources, that the commander of its Black Sea fleet, Igor Osipov, was replaced by a new chief, Viktor Sokolov.
If confirmed, the move will mark one of the most important departures by a military officer so far in a war in which Russia has suffered heavy losses in men and equipment.
According to RIA, the sources said 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.
In April, Ukraine hit the iconic Moskva, a huge cruiser, with Neptune missiles. She became the largest warship to be sunk in combat in 40 years.
Crimea, which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014 and has strengthened since then, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, where Kiev plans a counteroffensive in the coming weeks.
President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to avoid Russian military bases and ammunition depots and said the explosions could have a number of causes, including incompetence.