Crimea 'Sabotage' Shows Russia's Woes 08/17 06:08
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- A spate of explosions and a fire that was still
burning Wednesday have turned Russian-annexed Crimea from a secure base for the
further invasion of Ukraine into the latest flashpoint highlighting Moscow's
challenges ahead in a war that is nearing the half-year mark.
A statement from British defense intelligence said that "Russian commanders
will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in
security across Crimea, which functions as rear base area for the occupation."
Even Russia itself acknowledged it was an "act of sabotage" that caused
Tuesday's explosions and fires that ripped through an ammunition depot near
Dzhankoi in once-secure Crimea, leading to chaotic scenes when around 3,000
people had to be evacuated.
As a vivid reminder of Russia's vulnerability in Crimea, detonations at the
depot near Dzhankoi were still continuing Wednesday. Crimea's regional leader,
Sergei Aksyonov, said that authorities were engaging a fire helicopter to try
and extinguish them. He said that a search for perpetrators of the attack was
A week earlier, Russia's military in Crimea already came under pressure when
Ukraine said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed following explosions. At the
time, Moscow still offered the possibility of a wayward cigarette butt as the
No such explanations would suffice anymore as the war, which had long
centered on brutal fighting in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, has now given
southern Crimea increasing importance.
Worsening the outlook in Crimea was a report by the Kommersant business
paper, that explosions had also taken place near Gvardeyskoye in the center of
the peninsula. By Wednesday, there still was no comment from the Russian
The British intelligence report said Gvardeyskoye and Dzhankoi "are home to
two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea."
Ukraine has stopped short of claiming responsibility for any of the blasts,
including those at another Crimean air base last week. Russia seized the
Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has used it to launch attacks against Ukraine in
the war that began on Feb. 24.
If Ukrainian forces were behind the explosions, that would represent a
significant escalation in the war. Such attacks could also indicate that
Ukrainian operatives are able to penetrate deeply into Russian-occupied
On the eastern front, the stalemate between both sides continued, with the
brutality of the shelling causing ever more death and destruction.
In the Donetsk region at the forefront of the Russian offensive, two
civilians were killed and seven others were wounded by recent Russian shelling
of several towns and villages.
Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers fired cruise missiles at the Odesa region
overnight, leaving four people injured, according to Odesa regional
administration spokesman Oleh Bratchuk.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, two Russian missiles damaged a university
building early Wednesday but injured no one.
The Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv and various parts of the Kharkiv
region overnight, damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure
but inflicting no casualties.
On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to travel to
Ukraine for a meeting in the western city of Lviv with Zelenskyy and Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are expected to discuss the grain
shipments and a possible fact-finding mission to the Russian-controlled
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia and Ukraine have accused each
other of shelling.