Crimea blasts underline the vulnerability of Russian troops

Kyiv, Ukraine — A spate of explosions and fires has turned Russian-occupied Crimea from a secure rear base into a new battleground in the war, demonstrating both the Russians’ vulnerability and the Ukrainians’ ability to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Nine Russian warplanes were destroyed at an air base in Crimea last week, and an ammunition depot on the peninsula exploded on Tuesday.

Ukrainian authorities have stopped publicly claiming responsibility, preferring to leave the world guessing, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the latest blast, blaming Russia for “sabotage ”.

Russia captured the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has used it as a staging area for attacks on the country in the war that began on February 24. Ukrainian authorities have vowed to retake Crimea and other occupied territories.

The explosions represent the latest setback for Moscow, which began its invasion in hopes of taking Kiev in a lightning offensive, but soon bogged down in the face of fierce opposition. As the war approaches the six-month mark, the two sides are engaged in a war of attrition, fighting from village to village, largely in the east of the country.

The Crimean attacks could mean the opening of a new front that would significantly escalate the war and further expand Russia’s resources.

“Russian commanders are likely to become increasingly concerned about the apparent deterioration of security in Crimea, which acts as a back ground for the occupation,” the Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter.

As a result of the attacks on the airport, Russia is moving dozens of warplanes and helicopters to deeper positions in Crimea and to Russian bases elsewhere, Ukrainian military intelligence reported.

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Tuesday’s explosions tore through an ammunition site near the town of Dzhankoi, forcing about 3,000 people to be evacuated. Ammunition continued to explode on Wednesday and authorities fought the fires with a helicopter, Crimea regional leader Sergei Aksyonov said. He said the culprits are being sought.

The business newspaper Kommersant also reported explosions at a Crimean base in Gvardeyskoye on Tuesday. There was no confirmation from the Russians.

According to the British intelligence report, Gvardeyskoye and Dzhankoi are home to two of the main Russian military airfields in Crimea.

Just over a week ago, explosions shook Russia’s Saki Air Force Base in Crimea and destroyed planes on the ground. Moscow suggested the blast was accidental, perhaps caused by a careless smoker, but Ukrainian authorities mocked that statement and pointed to their involvement.

Last month, a small explosive carried by a makeshift drone exploded in a courtyard of the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, injuring six people and canceling ceremonies honoring the Russian Navy.

In other developments, it was reported on Wednesday that two civilians were killed and seven injured by Russian shelling of several towns and villages in the east’s Donetsk region, which is currently the center of the Kremlin offensive.

In the south, Russian warplanes fired cruise missiles at night into the Odessa region, injuring four people, according to regional government spokesman Oleh Bratchuk. In Mykolaiv, also in the south, two Russian missiles damaged a university building but did not injure anyone.

Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv and the surrounding region in the northeast at night, damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure but causing no casualties, authorities said.

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Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv for a meeting Thursday with Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Guterres will raise the issue of food and grain shipments, nuclear power plant safety and the prison explosion that killed dozens of captured Ukrainian fighters, and that he will “do what he can to essentially keep the temperature down.” lower it as much as possible.”

The last time the UN chief came to Ukraine, in April, Russia launched a missile attack on Kiev while he was visiting the capital.


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