Zelenskyy says 9 Russian jets were destroyed in Crimea blasts

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Wednesday that the blasts which rocked a Russian air base in annexed Crimea destroyed nine Russian aircraft.

“In just one day, the occupiers lost ten combat aircraft: nine in Crimea and one more in the direction of Zaporizhzhia,” Zelenskyy said in his traditional nightly address. “The occupiers also suffer new losses of armored vehicles, warehouses with ammunition, logistics routes,” he said.

“The more losses the occupiers suffer, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and guarantee Ukraine’s security,” he added.

Though Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the Crimea blasts on Tuesday, two senior Ukrainian officials told POLITICO that they signaled the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south and a critical new phase of the war that could shape its ultimate outcome.

Moscow downplayed the strikes, saying they were caused by ammunition that had accidentally detonated at the airfield. However, satellite images showed several military planes destroyed and at least three blast craters in areas where planes were parked, indicating a serious blow to the Russian military.

Meanwhile, Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s senior adviser, delivered a tongue-in-cheek cautionary note that the “epidemic of technical accidents at military airfields of Crimea and Belarus” should be seen by the Russian military as “a warning.”

“Forget about Ukraine, take off the uniform and leave. Neither in occupied Crimea nor in occupied Belarus will you feel safe. Karma finds you anywhere,” he added.

Shortly after the strikes, Zelenskyy said that Crimea will eventually be part of Ukraine again: “This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — with its liberation. … I know that we will return to the Ukrainian Crimea.”