Ukraine war: Huge explosions rock Russian military base in Crimea

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Powerful explosions rocked an air base in Russian-occupied Crimea on Tuesday, and while the Defence Ministry in Moscow said that nobody was injured in the explosion, local authorities said at least five people, including a child, were wounded.

Russia’s defence ministry said that munitions blew up at the Saki base but insisted the installation had not been shelled.

“Several munitions intended for aviation exploded in a depot located on the territory of the Saki military airfield, near the locality of Novofiodorovka,” the statement said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that it was hit by Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles, and the New York Times cites Ukrainian sources who confirm it was their military that carried out the attack. There has been no official confirmation as yet. 

Videos posted on social networks showed sunbathers fleeing a nearby beach as huge clouds of smoke from the explosions rose over the horizon.

If the base was, in fact, struck by the Ukrainians, it would mark the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by the Kremlin in 2014. 

The headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol was hit by a small-scale explosion delivered by a makeshift drone last month in an attack blamed on Ukrainian saboteurs.

Crimea’s head Sergei Aksyonov said ambulances and medical helicopters were sent to the Saki air base and the area was sealed off within a radius of five kilometres.

Five people were wounded, and one of them was hospitalised, said Konstantin Skorupsky, the head of Crimea’s health care department. He said the others were treated for cuts from shards of glass and were released.

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

The Saki base was used by Russian warplanes to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice.