Explosions at Russian base in Crimea suggest Ukrainians are fighting back

Moscow denounced the sabotage and Kyiv alluded to responsibility for explosions on Tuesday at a military base in Russia’s annexed Crimea that is an important supply route for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The explosions engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the northern Crimean peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.

Plumes of smoke were then seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russian newspaper Kommersant said, while explosions hit another facility in the west last week.

The explosions raised the prospect of a new dynamic in the six-month war if Ukraine now has the ability to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory or if pro-Kyiv groups succeed with guerrilla-style attacks .

Russia has used Crimea, which it annexed to Ukraine in 2014, to bolster its troops fighting in other parts of Ukraine with military equipment, a process Ukraine is keen to disrupt before a possible counter-offensive in the south.

Crimea is the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and is also popular in the summer as a vacation spot.

During Tuesday’s explosions, an electrical substation also caught fire, according to footage shown on Russian state television. Seven trains were delayed and rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea was suspended, Russian news agency RIA said.

Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for the explosions in Crimea, although its officials have openly applauded Russia’s setbacks.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Ukrainians to avoid Russian military bases and ammunition stores and said the explosions could have several causes, including incompetence.

“But they all mean the same thing – the destruction of the occupiers’ logistics, their ammunition, their military and other equipment, and command posts, saves the lives of our people,” he said in a statement. evening speech.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak have both gloated on social media over “demilitarization”: an apparent mocking reference to the word Russia uses to justify its invasion.

Podolyak later told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that Ukraine’s strategy was to destroy “Russian logistics, supply lines and ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. This creates chaos within their own forces.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the explosions at the ammunition depot were “the result of sabotage”.

As war has raged since February 24, attention has also focused in recent days on shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, the largest in Europe, in a Russian-occupied area in southeast of Ukraine.

Russian officials based there, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces shelled the town of Enerhodar where the plant is located. They accused Ukraine of doing it to induce Russia to retaliate.

Later on Tuesday, 20 Russian rockets and 10 artillery shells hit the town of Nikopol on the Ukrainian government-controlled Dnipro bank opposite Enerhodar, Ukrainian regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

He said four people were injured.

Reuters could not immediately verify the accounts of either party.

Each side has blamed the other for heightened risks to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russia seized in March, although Ukrainian technicians continue to operate it.

Meanwhile, Russia’s FSB security service has accused Ukrainian “saboteurs” of repeatedly blowing up electricity pylons leading from a nuclear power plant in the Kursk region, some 90 km (55 miles) north. north of the Ukrainian border, disrupting plant operations.

Reuters could not substantiate the report. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ukraine’s conflict has driven millions, killed thousands and driven a geopolitical wedge between the West and Moscow, which calls its invasion a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine, which was part of the Russian-dominated Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991, accuses Russia of waging an imperial-style war of conquest.

There has been new progress on a UN-brokered deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports, after a Russian blockade of Black Sea ports deepened a global food crisis.

With the ports unblocked, the Brave Commander ship left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi carrying the first shipment of food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since the Russian invasion. And the first ship to depart under the July deal, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, moored in the Syrian port city of Tartous.

Ukraine can export 3 million tonnes of grain from its ports in September and may eventually be able to export 4 million tonnes a month, a government official said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Odessa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, on Friday on a trip to the country. He will meet Zelenskiy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who helped hammer out the grain deal, a UN spokesman said.
Source: Reuters (reports from Reuters bureaus; writing by Lincoln Feast, Andrew Cawthorne, Mark Heinrich and Cynthia Osterman; editing by Nick Macfie, Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)