Explosions rock Crimea in suspected Ukrainian attack

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Explosions and fires ripped through an ammunition depot in Russian-occupied Crimea on Tuesday in the second suspected Ukrainian attack on the peninsula in just over a week, forcing more than 3,000 people to be evacuated.

Russia accused the explosions in the village of Mayskoye of an “act of sabotage”, without naming the perpetrators.

Separately, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant quoted residents as saying that plumes of black smoke were also rising over an air base in Gvardeyskoye in Crimea.

Ukraine stopped publicly claiming responsibility for any of the blasts, including the one that destroyed nine Russian planes last week at another Crimean air base. Russia captured the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has used it to launch attacks on Ukraine in the war that began nearly six months ago.

If Ukrainian troops were behind the explosions, it would significantly escalate the war. Such attacks could also indicate that Ukrainian agents can penetrate deep into the Russian-occupied territory.

In another reported sabotage, Russia’s Tass news agency quoted the FSB’s security agency as saying Ukrainian agents blew up six high-voltage transmission towers in Russia’s Kursk region, close to Ukraine, earlier this month.

The Kremlin has demanded that Kiev recognize Crimea as part of Russia as a condition of ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to expel Moscow’s troops from the Black Sea peninsula.

Videos posted to social media showed thick columns of smoke rising over raging flames in Mayskoye, and a series of explosions could be heard. The Russian Defense Ministry said a power plant, power lines, railway lines and apartment buildings were damaged.

“We came out to take a look and saw clouds of smoke coming from the cowshed where the military warehouses are,” said resident Maksim Moldovskiy. “We stayed there until about 7-8am. Everything exploded – flashes, fragments, debris that fell on us. Then the emergency services came and said they were evacuating everyone.”

Crimea regional leader Sergei Aksyonov said two people were injured and more than 3,000 people were evacuated from two villages.

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“The blasts are quite powerful. Ammunition is all over the ground,” he said, adding that several houses have burned down.

In retaliation for the Crimean attacks, Russian warplanes fired missiles at a military airfield in Zhytomyr, 140 kilometers west of Kiev, damaging a runway and vehicles, Ukrainian officials reported.

Crimea is a popular summer destination for Russian tourists, and last week’s explosions at Saki Air Force Base in Crimea caused sunbathers on the beaches to flee as flames and columns of smoke rose above the horizon.

Ukrainian officials warned on Tuesday that Crimea would not be spared the ravages of the war.

Rather than a travel destination, “Russian-occupied Crimea is about explosions in warehouses and a high risk of death for intruders and thieves,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.

Russia blamed last week’s explosions with an accidental detonation of ammunition, but satellite photos and other evidence — including the scattered blast sites — pointed to a Ukrainian attack, perhaps with anti-ship missiles, military analysts said.

The British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet are in an “extremely defensive posture” in the waters off Crimea, with ships barely venturing out of sight of the shoreline. Russia’s flagship Moskva crashed into the Black Sea in April and Ukrainian forces recaptured strategic Snake Island last month.

The “limited effectiveness of the Russian fleet undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy,” the British said. “This means Ukraine can use resources to pressure Russian ground forces elsewhere.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Western allies not only supplied weapons to Ukraine, but also provided detailed intelligence and instructors to help Ukraine use weapons that could reach deep into occupied territory.

“Western intelligence agencies have not only provided target coordinates for launching attacks, but Western specialists have also overseen the input of that data into weapon systems,” Shoigu said.

In other developments:

— A UN chartered ship loaded with Ukrainian grain departed for the famine-ravaged Horn of Africa in the war’s first such relief effort. The shipment was made possible by an internationally brokered deal to free grain trapped in Ukrainian ports from fighting and establish safe corridors through the Black Sea’s mining waters.

— UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to travel to Ukraine on Thursday to meet in the western city of Lviv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are expected to discuss grain shipments and a possible fact-finding mission to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling. Guterres will also visit Odessa on Friday.

During Guterres’ last trip to Ukraine, in April, Russian troops launched an airstrike on Kiev while he was visiting the capital.

— Russian shelling killed at least two civilians in the industrial region of Donbas in the east and in the city of Kharkov in the northeast, Ukrainian authorities said.

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Follow the coverage of the AP about the war

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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