Blasts at Russian Ammunition Base in Crimea Signal Possible Ukrainian Comeback

Moscow denounced the blast as sabotage while Ukraine only hinted at responsibility. The explosion engulfed an ammunition depot at a Russian military base in the north of the peninsula

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A view shows smoke rising above the area following an alleged explosion in Crimea, on Tuesday.
A view shows smoke rising above the area following an alleged explosion in Crimea, on Tuesday.Credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS
Reuters
Reuters

Explosions rang out and plumes of smoke were seen billowing over a military base in Russian-annexed Crimea on Tuesday, a critical supply line for Moscow, raising the prospect of a shifting dynamic in Russia's six-month invasion of Ukraine.

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Moscow denounced the blast as sabotage while Ukraine only hinted at responsibility. The explosion engulfed an ammunition depot at a Russian military base in the north of the peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing 2,000 people to be evacuated from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.

Plumes of smoke were later seen at yet another Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported, while blasts hit another facility in the west just last week.

Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for explosions in Crimea, though its officials have openly cheered incidents in territory that, until last week, appeared safe in Moscow's grip beyond range of attack.

If Ukraine is behind the attacks, and has the capability to strike deeper into Russian territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks, the blasts could signal a new phase in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Smoke can be seen from the beach in Crimea after explosions at a nearby Russian military, last week.Credit: AP

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 counter-offensive in southern Ukraine.

In Tuesday's incident, an electricity substation also caught fire, according to footage on Russian state TV. Russia's RIA news agency said seven trains were delayed and that rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea had been suspended.

After Tuesday's blasts, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and chief of staff Andriy Yermak both exulted on social media at "demilitarization", an apparent mocking reference to the word Russian officials often use to justify the country's invasion.

"Operation 'demilitarization' in the precise style of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue until the complete de-occupation of Ukraine's territories. Our soldiers are the best sponsors of a good mood," Yermak wrote on Telegram.

With the war raging since February, attention has focused in recent days on shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine. Both sides have blamed each other for risks to Europe's largest nuclear facility, which Russia has seized, though Ukrainian technicians continue to operate it. The region's governor, Oleksandr Starukh, said up to 400,000 people would need to be evacuated in the event of an accident.

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