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News / Nation & World

Russia accuses Ukraine’s Western allies of helping attack its Black Sea Fleet headquarters

By ILLIA NOVIKOV, Associated Press
Published: September 27, 2023, 7:35am

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine’s Western allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

“There is no doubt that the attack had been planned in advance using Western intelligence means, NATO satellite assets and reconnaissance planes and was implemented upon the advice of American and British security agencies and in close coordination with them,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing.

Moscow has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. and its NATO allies have effectively become involved in the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine and providing it with intelligence information and helping plan attacks on Russian facilities.

Unconfirmed news reports said Storm Shadow missiles provided to Ukraine by the U.K. and France were used in the attack on the headquarters.

There was no comment from the U.K. Ministry of Defense, which in the past has declined to discuss intelligence-related matters.

The accusation came as new video reported to show that the fleet’s commander, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, was still alive despite Ukraine’s claims — without providing supporting evidence — that he was among 34 officers killed in Friday’s strike on the port city of Sevastopol.

The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has been a frequent target since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Crimea has served as the key hub supporting the invasion and has increasingly come under fire by Ukraine.

Ukraine said the strike that put a large hole in the main building of the headquarters had wounded 105 people, though those claims couldn’t independently be verified.

Russia initially said one serviceman was killed but quickly retracted that statement and said the person was missing.

Moscow has provided no updates on any casualties.

The Kremlin didn’t comment on Sokolov’s status, but the Defense Ministry on Tuesday released a video showing him among other senior officers attending a video conference with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Sokolov didn’t speak in the clip.

When asked about Sokolov on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that he took part in the call with Shoigu but refrained from further comment.

Russian state television stations on Wednesday showed Sokolov speaking to journalists in Sevastopol after handing awards to a Black Sea Fleet soccer team. Sokolov was asked to say a few words to residents after the latest developments — an apparent reference to the Ukrainian claim that he was killed with scores of other officers in the missile strike on the fleet’s headquarters.

“What happened to us? Nothing happened to us,” Sokolov responded. “Life goes on. The Black Sea Fleet confidently and successfully carries out the tasks assigned to it by the command. Surface forces, submarine forces, naval aviation, and coastal troops are successfully completing tasks.”

Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces posted a statement Tuesday saying its sources claimed that Sokolov was among the dead, many of whom hadn’t yet been identified. It said it was trying to verify the claim after the video surfaced.

Zakharova’s statements follow comments made Tuesday by Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, who said the arrival of American-made Abrams tanks in Ukraine and a U.S. promise to supply an unspecified number of long-range ATACMS missiles would push NATO closer to a direct conflict with Russia.

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