Putin humiliated as Black Sea commander replaced after Crimea blasts

Ukrainian 'homemade drone' hits Russian Black Sea fleet

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On Wednesday Russia’s RIA news agency said Mr Sokolov had been appointed citing multiple sources. It comes after Russian military bases in Crimea were rocked by multiple explosions in recent days.

If the reports are accurate, the removal of Mr Osipov would be the most prominent sacking of a senior Russian military since the start of the invasion of Ukraine almost six months ago.

RIA cited sources claiming that Mr Sokolov was introduced to members of the fleet’s military council in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

According to one source it was “normal” that the appointment was not publicly announced as the Kremlin is undertaking what it calls its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.

The Black Sea fleet has a proud history in Russia having been founded by Empress Catherine the Great in 1783.

However it has suffered a series of high profile public humiliations since the start of the war.

In April Ukraine hit its flagship vessel the Moskva with Neptune missiles causing it to catch fire and then sink.

Last week the fleet’s Saki air base in southwest Crimea was devastated by a series of explosions.

According to satellite imagery eight warplanes were destroyed at the air base close to the fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol.

On Tuesday an ammunition depot at a military base in Crimea was hit by blasts.

Russia claimed that it was an act of sabotage while Ukraine hinted that it could be responsible for the attack.

On Wednesday Russia’s FSB security service said that it had detained six members of an Islamist terrorist cell in Crimea.

However the FSB did not reveal if they suspected an involvement in the attacks. 

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Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 following a controversial referendum, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine.

However the fact that Ukraine has been able to hit Russian forces in Crimea is a morale booster for Kyiv as it seeks to launch a counteroffensive.

Mr Osipov, 49, had been in charge of the fleet since May 2019 according to his biography on the defence ministry website.

Mr Sokolov, 60 has experience of commanding minesweeping vessels and units in the 1980s and 1990s.

Since then he has served with the Pacific and Northern Fleets, including a spell as deputy commander in the latter and since 2020 has ran a military academy.

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