A new explosion sounded in a Russian military base in Crimea on Tuesday August 16, announced the Russian Ministry of Defense. A week earlier, ammunition depots intended for military aviation had already exploded in the west of the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia since 2014. Franceinfo summarizes the latest events in this strategic region.
Russian aviation infrastructure destroyed
A fire first broke out at around 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday August 16 in a temporary ammunition depot at a Russian base in the Jankoy district of northern Crimea. This fire triggered the explosion of ammunition, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The balance sheet is two injured civilians and nearly 3,000 evacuees in the vicinity of the base, according to Sergueï Aksionov, the governor of Crimea, who went there. “A number of civil infrastructures, including a high voltage line, a power station, a railway line, as well as several houses were also damaged”, adds the Russian army. In the morning, the transport operator with Crimea, Grand Service Express, reported that the movement of trains had been temporarily suspended in the area, reports the Russian media. Kommersant (in Russian).
War in Ukraine: an explosion of ammunition in a Russian base took place this morning near Djankoï, in the north of Crimea. The Russian army has so far not named officials.
– France TV Europe (@FranceTVEurope) August 16, 2022
A week earlier, Tuesday August 9, explosions in an aviation ammunition depot in Saki, Crimea, had already left one dead and injured, according to the Russian army. If the region is rarely targeted, a previous drone attack still hit the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on July 31.
These explosions occur more than 200 kilometers from the front, so theoretically beyond the reach of Ukrainian weapons. The Pentagon also claims not to have delivered weapons to kyiv to carry out such strikes and adds that it does not have information on the cause of the explosions.
An act of “sabotage”, according to Moscow
Tuesday’s explosion is due to a “act of sabotage”, the Russian army said in a statement quoted by national news agencies. Moscow, however, refrains from appointing officials.
During the previous explosions in Crimea, on August 9, Vladimir Putin’s army declared that no shooting or bombardment had been the cause of these explosions. But satellite images broadcast on August 11 by Maxar Technologies seemed to contradict this version. At least nine Russian planes were thus destroyed during these explosions, deciphers Danish analyst Oliver Alexander for AFP.
#Satelliteimagery from August 10, 2022 of #Saki airbase in Novofedorivka, #Crimea, #Ukraine showing the aftermath of the reported attack on the Russian airbase where you can see the extent of the damage caused by explosions and fires. pic.twitter.com/B67lfdO1jd
—Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) August 11, 2022
A “demilitarization” operation, according to kyiv
kyiv authorities do not claim responsibility for these recent explosions. Andriï Lermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, however welcomed on Tuesday on Telegram a “demilitarization operation in a goldsmith’s way by the Ukrainian armed forces”which he says will continue “until the complete liberation of Ukrainian territories”.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue the filigree “demilitarization” operation to fully rid our land of Russian invaders. Our soldiers are the best sponsors of a good mood.
Crimea is Ukraine.
—Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) August 16, 2022
“The morning near Djankoi began with explosions”noted for his part on Twitter the adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mikhaïlo Podoliak. “Crimea in a normal country is the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism. But Russian-occupied Crimea is explosions of ammunition depots and high risk of death for invaders and thieves”he launched.
Morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action.
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) August 16, 2022
A strategic territory
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in July threatened Ukraine with a “apocalypse” in the event of an attack on Crimea, in an interview with the national news agency Tass.
Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014, is at the forefront of the Russian offensive against kyiv. By its strategic position, the enclave allowed Moscow to take control of several territories of Ukraine. Planes depart regularly from Crimea to strike targets in areas still controlled by kyiv. The territory also offers key logistical support to Russia, with the two main rail links on which Moscow relies to move military equipment, underlines the New York Times (link in english). Part of the Russian fleet is also positioned in Crimea, which allowed the implementation of the naval blockade which paralyzed the Ukrainian economy.
Beyond the military aspect, Crimea is also an important vacation spot for Russian tourists despite the war.
These explosions presage a new dynamic of the war, analyzes Michael C. Kimmage, professor and director of the department of history at the Catholic University of America in Washington. According to the researcher, interviewed by Newsweek (link in English), the war could “definitively” intensify if kyiv was involved in the explosions, while Ukraine does not hide its ambition to recover Crimea.