Ukraine said on Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a series of deadly explosions at an air base in Crimea. which appeared to be the result of an attack, which would represent a significant escalation in the war.
However, kyiv has not claimed responsibility, merely mocking Russia‘s explanation that a careless smoker could have caused ammunition at the Saki air base to catch fire and explode. Analysts also said the explanation does not make sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to attack.
Russia denied that any planes were damaged, or that any attack took place. But videos from the scene and an assessment by local officials, who declared a state of emergency, told a very different story, with at least one person dead, more than a dozen injured and hundreds taken to shelters. More than 60 apartment buildings were damaged, along with 20 other buildings.authorities said.
Satellite photos clearly showed craters, burn marks and at least eight fighter planes destroyed.
If the Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for the explosions, it would be the first known major attack against a Russian military site on the Crimean peninsulathat the Kremlin seized Ukraine in 2014. Russian warplanes have used Saki to attack areas in southern Ukraine.
Crimea is of great strategic and symbolic importance for both sides. The Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to expel the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.
The explosions, which killed one person and injured 14, caused tourists to flee in panic as plumes of smoke rose over the nearby shoreline. The video showed broken windows and holes in the bricks of some buildings.
A tourist, Natalia Lipovaya, said that “the earth had gone from under my feet” after the powerful explosions. “I was so scared,” she said.
Sergey Milochinsky, a local resident, recalled hearing a roar and seeing a mushroom cloud from his window. “Everything began to collapse, to collapse”said.
The regional leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov said some 250 residents were moved into temporary housing after dozens of apartment buildings were damaged.
Russian authorities tried to downplay the blasts, saying on Wednesday that all hotels and beaches were not affected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians. But a video posted on social media showed long lines of cars moving slowly on the highway to Russia as tourists headed home.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych cryptically said the explosions were caused by Ukrainian-made long-range weapons. or for the work of the Ukrainian guerrillas operating in Crimea.
A member of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleksandr Zavitnevich said that the airfield became unusable. He reported on Facebook that it housed fighter jets, tactical reconnaissance aircraft, and military transport aircraft.
Planet Labs PBC satellite images taken mid-afternoon Wednesday showed some 2 square kilometers of burned grassland at the base of Saki.
Several craters marked the ground near the runway, typically the sign of a powerful explosion. The two runways showed no apparent damage and appeared to be still operational. Some of the fighter jets on the flight line had moved further down the runwaycompared to images taken on the Tuesday before the explosion.
The base has been home to Russia’s 43rd Independent Naval Air Assault Squadron since Moscow seized Crimea.. The squad flies Sukhoi Su-24 Y Sukhoi Su-30. The base also includes a series of earth-covered bunkers and hangars around its periphery, usually used to house ammunition in the event of a fire. None seemed damaged.
“The Kyiv official has kept quiet about it, but unofficially the army acknowledges that it was a Ukrainian attack”said Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.
The base is at least 200 kilometers from the nearest Ukrainian position. Zhdanov suggested that the Ukrainian forces could have attacked him with anti-ship missiles supplied by Ukraine or by the West have the necessary range.
The Institute for the Study of Warbased in Washington, said it could not independently determine what caused the explosions, buto noted that simultaneous explosions at two locations on the base probably rule out an accidental fire, but not a sabotage or a missile attack.
He added: “The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of carrying out strikes that caused the damage, as such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems.”
During the war, andThe Kremlin has reported numerous fires and explosions on Russian territory near the Ukrainian border., blaming some of them on Ukrainian attacks. Ukrainian authorities have mostly kept quiet about the incidents, preferring to keep the world on edge.
Neither side has released much information about their own casualties.. In his late-night video address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that nearly 43,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.
Colin Kahl, US undersecretary for defense policy, estimated Monday that Russian forces have suffered up to 80,000 killed and wounded in the fighting. He did not break out the figure with an estimate of forces killed or provide a count of Ukrainian casualties.
In other developments, Russian forces shelled areas in Ukraine from Tuesday night to Wednesdayincluding the central Dnipropetrovsk region, where 13 people were killed, according to the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.
Reznichenko said the Russians fired on the city of Marganets and a nearby town.. Dozens of residential buildings, two schools and several administration buildings were damaged.
“It was a terrible night”Reznichenko said. “It is very difficult to get bodies out from under the rubble. We are facing a cruel enemy who exercises terror on a daily basis against our cities and towns.”
In eastern Ukraine, where fighting has been going on for eight years, a Russian attack on the city center of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region killed seven, injured six and damaged shops, houses and apartment buildings, causing fires, said Ukraine’s prosecutor general. Telegram. Bakhmut is a key target for Russian forces as they push into regional hubs.
Two residents of the village of Staryi Saltiv in the region of Kharkiv in the northeast were killed in Russian airstrikes on Wednesday, police said.
In the southeast of the country, Moscow forces continued to shell the city of Nikopol across the Dnieper River from the power station of Zaporizhzhia occupied by the Russians, the largest nuclear plant in Europe. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of bombing it, stoking international fears of a catastrophe.
On Wednesday, Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized democracies demanded that Russia immediately return full control of the plant to Ukraine. They said they are “deeply concerned” about the risk of a nuclear accident with far-reaching consequences.
The UN Security Council scheduled an open meeting on Thursday at Russia’s request. about what he claims were Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia plant. Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who said last week that the situation at the plant “is completely out of control”, was expected to brief the council.
At least 10 dead after several Russian bombings in eastern and southern Ukraine