Tally of damage near Crimea air base contradicts Kremlin's assertions

ODESA, UKRAINE (NYTIMES) – Damage from a series of explosions at a Russian air base in Crimea appeared to be greater than the Kremlin has described, as officials on the Russia-occupied peninsula on Wednesday (Aug 10) declared a state of emergency and said that dozens of nearby homes and commercial structures had been hit.

After the explosions on Tuesday, which a senior Ukrainian military official said were the work of Ukrainian forces, Russia’s Defence Ministry moved quickly to play down the extent of the damage, saying no equipment had been destroyed and no casualties reported.

The assertions were contradicted by a video from the scene and by a tally of the damage by officials in Crimea, a strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

The Kremlin-installed leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Wednesday that 252 people had been relocated to shelters because of damage to their homes.

At least 62 apartment buildings and 20 commercial structures had been damaged in the blast, a statement on Aksyonov’s Telegram page said, and officials were still cataloging damage to private homes.

Aksyonov declared a state of emergency, apparently aimed at speeding up the rebuilding process. At least one person was killed and more than a dozen others wounded, officials said.

Damage to the base itself was harder to assess, but one video that emerged in the aftermath, and that was verified by The New York Times, showed the charred nose cone of a fighter jet, its fuselage a black, shapeless mass.

Although Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for the explosions, a senior Ukrainian military official said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s special forces – along with local partisan resistance fighters loyal to the government in Kyiv – were behind the blasts. The explosions set off fireballs that startled beachgoers at a nearby Black Sea resort.

The official said the air base, Saki, on the western coast of Crimea, has been regularly used by Russian warplanes that have attacked Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate military matters, the official would not disclose the type of weapon used in the attack, saying only that “a device exclusively of Ukrainian manufacture was used.”

The blasts are potentially important because any Ukrainian attack on Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula would be a significant expansion of Ukraine’s offensive efforts. Until now, Ukrainian forces have largely focused on pushing Russian troops back from territories occupied after Feb 24, when their invasion began.

Ukraine possesses few weapons that can reach the peninsula, aside from aircraft that would risk being shot down immediately by Russia’s heavy air defences in the region. The air base, which is near the city of Novofedorivka, is about 300km from the nearest Ukrainian military position.

Disclaimer: This report is automatically generated from worldwide news services. NTN is not responsible for its content and does not moderate it.

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