Kyiv – Moscow denounced sabotage and Ukraine hinted at responsibility for new explosions at a military base on Tuesday in the Russian-annexed Crimea region that is an important war supply line.
The blasts 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 a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said, while blasts hit another facility in the west last week.
The explosions raised the prospect of new dynamics in the six-month war if Ukraine now has capability to strike deeper into Russian territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks.
Russia used Crimea, which it annexed eight years ago from Ukraine, 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.
Crimea is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and also popular in the summer as a holiday resort.
In the incident on Tuesday, an electricity sub-station 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.
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.
After Tuesday’s blasts, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and chief of staff Andriy Yermak both exulted on social media at “demilitarisation”: an apparent mocking reference to the word Russia uses to justify its invasion.