Russia changes the Black Sea fleet commander after the explosions in Crimea

Crimea: After the blasts that rocked the peninsula in 2014 and previously seen as a secure rear base for its war in Ukraine, Russia has reportedly replaced the commander of its Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea , according to a state news agency.

Moscow blamed vandals for Tuesday's explosions at an ammunition depot in northern Crimea. Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that plumes of smoke were later seen rising over a second Russian military base in central Crimea.

Although it has given indications, Ukraine has not officially accepted responsibility. The apparent ability of Ukrainians to advance into Russian-occupied territory, either with weapons or through sabotage, suggests a change in the nature of the conflict.

Last week, warplanes were destroyed in explosions at a Russian airport in Crimea.

Viktor Sokolov has taken over from Igor Osipov as commander of the country's Black Sea Fleet, according to sources cited by Russian news agency RIA on Wednesday.

If confirmed, the action would represent one of the most visible expulsion of a military officer to date, with Russia suffering significant casualties in terms of personnel and material.
According to sources cited by the state-owned RIA, the new leader was introduced to members of the military council of the fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which Moscow refers to as a "special military operation", the Black Sea Fleet, which has a storied past in Russia, has been subjected to many humiliations.

Using Neptune missiles, Ukraine attacked its flagship cruiser Moskva in April, which served as its flagship. It was the largest warship sunk in the last 40 years.

The main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, where Kyiv is preparing a retaliatory strike in the coming weeks, is Crimea, which Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014 and has since been heavily fortified.

President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians to avoid Russian military installations and gunpowder depots, saying there could be multiple factors contributing to the explosions, including inefficiency.

In an evening address on Tuesday, he said, "But they all mean the same thing - the destruction of the occupants' logistics, their ammunition, their military and other equipment and their command posts, saves the lives of our people."

Although it did not specify whether they were suspected of involvement in the blasts, Russia's FSB security service announced on Wednesday that it had detained six members of an Islamist terrorist cell in Crimea.

Since the start of the conflict, the Black Sea Fleet has also blocked Ukrainian ports, hampering vital grain exports, which are now resuming their normal flow due to a deal mediated by Turkey and the United Nations. are.

It has been a morale-boosting victory for Kyiv that Ukraine appears to have been able to launch a devastating attack on what Moscow considered a secure rear stronghold.

According to his official bio on the Ministry of Defense website, the 49-year-old former commander Osipov was in charge since May 2019.

Sokolov, his successor, was 60 years old and had extensive experience leading minesweeping units and ships in the 1980s and 1990s. Sokolov then advanced through several positions in the Pacific and Northern Fleets, eventually becoming deputy commander later. He is in charge of a prestigious military academy since 2020.

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