San Francisco Chronicle

Huge explosions rattle Russian air base in Crimea

- By Susie Blann Susie Blann is an Associated Press writer.

KYIV, Ukraine — Powerful explosions rocked a Russian air base in Crimea and sent towering clouds of smoke over the landscape Tuesday in what may mark an escalation of the war in Ukraine. At least one person was killed and several others were wounded, authoritie­s said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the Saki base on the Black Sea had been shelled and said instead that munitions had blown up there. But Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculatio­n that it was hit by Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles.

Videos posted on social networks showed sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon from multiple points, accompanie­d by loud booms. Crimea Today News said on Telegram that witnesses reported fire on a runway and damage to nearby homes as a result of what it said were dozens of blasts.

If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsibl­e for the blasts at the air base, it would mark the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014.

Russian warplanes have used the Saki base to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice.

One person was killed, said Crimea’s regional leader, Sergei Aksyonov. Crimean health authoritie­s said nine people were wounded, one of whom remained hospitaliz­ed. Others were treated for cuts from shards of glass and released.

Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliatio­n, including strikes on “decision-making centers” in Kyiv.

For his part, Ukraine’s president vowed to retake Crimea from Russia.

“This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday in his nightly video address.

Also on Tuesday, several countries in Europe dependent on Russian energy suffered another blow with confirmati­on that oil shipments have stopped through a critical pipeline. Russian state pipeline operator Transneft said it halted shipments through the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, which flows through Ukraine to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Transneft cited complicati­ons due to EU sanctions for its action on Aug. 4, saying its payment to the company’s Ukrainian counterpar­t was refused. Slovnaft, which is owned by Hungary’s MOL energy group, said its production hasn’t been affected.

 ?? Associated Press ?? Billowing smoke can be seen from the beach at Saki after explosions were heard at a Russian military air base in Crimea. At least one person was killed and nine wounded in the blasts.
Associated Press Billowing smoke can be seen from the beach at Saki after explosions were heard at a Russian military air base in Crimea. At least one person was killed and nine wounded in the blasts.

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