Moscow says Crimea airbase blasts were ammo detonation, not attack

The explosions rocked the Saki airfield, killing one, and injuring eight people



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Agencies

Published: Wed 10 Aug 2022, 11:43 AM

On Tuesday, Moscow insisted that major blasts at a key military airbase on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula were caused by exploding ammunition, rather than Ukrainian fire.

Dramatic amateur footage shared on social media appeared to show panicked holidaymakers fleeing a Crimean beach with young children, as ballooning clouds of grey smoke rose over the horizon. The blasts rocked the Saki airfield on the 167th day of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, and has used the region as a staging ground for its attacks on Ukraine, but it has rarely been a target for Ukrainian forces.

The Russian Defence Ministry said that "several aviation munitions detonated" at the base in an incident that had left one person dead. Local health officials reported that eight people had been injured so far, with one dead.

The Defence Ministry said it was looking to establish the reason for the explosions, but indicated that the airfield was not targeted in an attack.

A senior Ukrainian official suggested that this could have been the work of partisan saboteurs, and denied any responsibility for the incident. Zelensky's advisor also suggested Russian incompetence as a possible cause of the blasts.

Ukraine's army, which for months pleaded for long-range artillery from Western allies, has been hitting targets deeper in Russian-held territory since some started arriving in recent weeks. Kyiv has also taken credit for several acts of sabotage inside Russian-held territory.

Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in the wake of massive nationwide street demonstrations that led to the exit of a Kremlin-friendly president.

Those protests precipitated fighting between the army and Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which would lay the groundwork for Moscow's full-scale assault on February 24 this year.

The attack left thousands dead, forced millions in Ukraine from their homes, and littered the country with land mines.

On Tuesday, the United States announced that it would provide $89 million for demining efforts in Ukraine.

"Russia's unlawful and unprovoked" attack on Ukraine has "littered massive swaths of the country with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices", the State Department said, in a statement.

"These explosive hazards block access to fertile farmland, delay reconstruction efforts, prevent displaced communities from returning to their homes, and continue to kill and maim innocent Ukrainian civilians," it added.

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The Russia-Ukraine conflicts have led to a deep rupture in economic ties between Moscow and the West.

In response to sanctions pertaining to this,, Russia has squeezed gas supplies to Europe. It announced on Tuesday that its oil deliveries through Ukraine had been halted.

Transneft, the Russian pipeline operator, said that the Ukrainian side had stopped flow because it was "not receiving funds for these services".The Ukrainian side did not comment.

One of the impacted countries, Slovakia, confirmed that flow had been halted for several days, and a spokesman for Bratislava refinery Slovnaft cited "technical problems at the bank level, in connection with the payment of transit fees from the Russian side".

The Kremlin lashed out, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview that Europe ought to close their borders to Russians, in response to the war.

The Ukrainian leader told The Washington Post that current Western sanctions against Moscow were too weak— a call that has been echoed by Russia's neighbours Estonia and Finland.

"The irrationality of thinking in this case is off the charts," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

On the frontlines, Ukraine said Russia was pursuing a campaign of bombardment of the east of the country, that left much of the industrial Donbas region in ruins.

Kyiv said, on Tuesday, that it had transported at least 3,000 people out of the battle-scarred eastern region of Donetsk, since it ordered evacuations ahead of winter.

The Ukrainian authorities are asking people to leave the area, as they do not expect to be able to provide it with heat during the cold winter months.

The presidency earlier said that three people had been killed and 19 more wounded in Russian shelling across the Donetsk region on Monday.

The head of the central region of Dnipro, meanwhile, said that 11 medical facilities had relocated there from the battle-torn Kharkiv and Lugansk regions, situated further east.

"Those facilities transferred over 100 pieces of equipment and 10 ambulances," Dnipro regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

"The hospitals are restarting work. They are mostly receiving displaced people."


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