The Jerusalem Post

Moscow blames saboteurs for explosions that rocked ammo dump in Russian-annexed Crimea


LONDON (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday blamed saboteurs for orchestrat­ing a series of explosions at an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, a rare admission that armed groups loyal to Ukraine are damaging military logistics and supply lines on territory it controls.

The incident follows a series of explosions last week at a Russian-operated air base in Crimea that Ukrainian officials hinted were part of some kind of special operation but which Moscow said at the time was an accident.

Nobody had been seriously injured in the latest explosions, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday in a statement published by state news agencies, which it said had also damaged power lines, an electricit­y substation, railway infrastruc­ture and some residentia­l housing in northern Crimea.

Footage on Russian state TV showed an electricit­y substation on fire near the town of Dzhankoi in Crimea and a series of large explosions on the horizon, which authoritie­s said were caused by ammunition detonating at a military base.

It was not immediatel­y clear how saboteurs had triggered the blasts, though Russian state media speculated they may have used small drones to bomb the ammo depot and other facilities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibi­lity from Ukraine, which is battling to push back Russian forces nearly six months into the war that began with Moscow’s February 24 invasion.

Two senior Ukrainian officials took to Twitter to exult in the explosions, however, with one, presidenti­al adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, hinting at possible Ukrainian involvemen­t while stopping short of confirming such a role.

“[The] morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions,” he wrote. “A reminder: Crimea [as a] normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitari­zation in action.”

Russia cites the demilitari­zation of Ukraine as one of its main aims in Ukraine, something it says is necessary to preemptive­ly ensure its own security in the face of what it has cast as uncontroll­ed expansion by the Western NATO military alliance.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported another possible act of sabotage in Crimea, quoting witnesses as saying that plumes of smoke could be seen over a Russian military air base on the peninsula.

Sergei Aksyonov, the top Russian official in Crimea, said around 2,000 local people had been evacuated from a village near the ammo dump beyond a fivekm. perimeter.

Two people had been injured in the ammo explosions, he said, adding that there was disruption to railway traffic between the peninsula and the rest of southern Ukraine and Russia.

Russia has used Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, to reinforce its troops fighting in other parts of Ukraine with military hardware, a process Kyiv is keen to disrupt ahead of a potential counteroff­ensive in southern Ukraine, which it has for weeks been suggesting it may launch.

Railway repair work was under way, Russian media reported, while a company that runs passenger trains through Crimea said seven had been delayed and rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea was suspended. The trains were likely to be delayed by one to three hours, it said.

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