Putin SACKS his Black Sea naval commander after string of Ukrainian raids on bases in Crimea – as Zelensky advised to reclaim the peninsula
- Igor Osipov has been replaced with Viktor Sokolov, reported Russian state media
- His removal marks the most prominent sacking of a military official over Ukraine
- Osipov has not been seen in public since the sinking of the Moskva flagship
Russia’s Black Sea fleet based in annexed Crimea has installed a new commander, RIA news agency cited sources as saying on Wednesday, after Russian military bases on the peninsula were rocked by explosions in the past nine days.
If confirmed, the removal of the previous commander Igor Osipov would mark the most prominent sacking of a military official in the nearly six months since Russia launched its war on Ukraine.
State-owned RIA said the new chief, Viktor Sokolov, was introduced to members of the fleet’s military council in the port of Sevastopol.
Admiral Igor Osipov, the head of Russia’s naval command, has been reportedly sacked after a series of attacks on Crimea
Residents from the village are now being evacuated as footage appeared to show a series of explosions at the ammunition depot
One source said it was ‘normal’ that the appointment was not publicly announced at a time when Russia is conducting what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
Speculation has followed that Osipov was sacked following the sinking of the Moskva flagship on 14 April, but the naval commander appears to have kept his job until recently.
Osipov was absent from the Red Square ‘victory parade’, with Moscow claiming he was ‘not in the mood’ to appear following the loss of the flagship.
RIA’s announcements is the first time Russian state news has confirmed the sacking.
It comes as blasts struck near the city of Dzhankoi in northern Crimea early Tuesday, destroying what is believed to be either a Russian fuel or ammunition dump located close to a railway line.
Moscow’s defence ministry said a fire broke out around 6.15am ‘as a result of an act of sabotage’ which damaged ‘a military storage facility near the village of Dzhankoi.’
‘Damage was caused to a number of civilian facilities, including power lines, a power plant, a railway track as well as a number of residential buildings. There were no serious injuries,’ it added.
Vice Admiral Viktor Nikolaevich Sokolov, the new chief of Russia’s naval forces, is pictured
Separately, powerful explosions rocked an air base in Gvardeyskoye, central Crimea, sending plumes of black smoke into the air on Tuesday, local residents told the Russian business newspaper Kommersant.
Russia has not directly blamed Ukraine for the attacks and Kyiv has not taken credit, but it comes just after a similar blast at a Russian airfield in the town of Saki last week which destroyed at least seven jets.
An anonymous official told journalists that Ukrainian special forces were responsible for that attack.
The explosions come just days after a series of devastating blasts destroyed at least seven Russian warplanes and demolished ammunition storage facilities at the Saki air force base in Crimea.
The damaged cruiser Moskva is pictured soon after it was struck by Ukrainian missiles
It also comes a day after Ukraine launched a HIMARS strike on a Wagner military base in the occupied city of Popasna after its location was inadvertently revealed by a Russian war propagandist.
Crimea is part of Ukraine, but has been occupied by Russian troops since 2014.
Putin claims it as Russian territory following a sham referendum which showed locals in favour of becoming part of the mainland.
The recent blasts mark the first significant Ukrainian attacks on the peninsula since it was occupied, and have raised eyebrows among experts because the sites are well out of range of Ukraine’s current missile systems.
The explosions on August 9, which killed one person and wounded 14, sent tourists fleeing in panic from a nearby beach as plumes of smoke snaked along the coastline
At least seven Russian fighter jets were destroyed and ammunition storage facilities were destroyed in the explosions on August 9. Pictured: Satellite images show the destroyed Russian aircraft at the Saki Air base
An ammunition depot has exploded in Crimea just days after a series of explosions destroyed at least seven Russian warplanes at a nearby air force base. Earlier on Tuesday morning, a transformer substation near the town of Dzhankoi, 14 miles away from the ammunition depot, caught fire according to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency
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