9 Russian Warplanes Destroyed: Ukraine
Explosions rock Russian military air base
Crimea blast was ammo detonation, not attack: Russia
KYIV, Aug 10: Powerful explosions rocked a Russian air base in Crimea and sent towering clouds of smoke over the landscape Tuesday in what may mark an escalation of the war in Ukraine. At least one person was killed and several others were wounded, authorities said.
Russia's Defense Ministry denied the Saki base on the Black Sea had been shelled and said instead that munitions had blown up there. But Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that it was hit by Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles.
Ukraine's air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in massive explosions at an air base in Crimea amid speculation they were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a significant escalation in the war.
Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday's blasts - or that any attack took place.
Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while poking fun at Russia's explanation that munitions at the Saki air base caught fire and blew up and also underscoring the importance of the peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago.
In his nightly video address several hours after the blasts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to retake the peninsula, saying that "this Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea - its liberation."
On Wednesday, Russian authorities sought to downplay the blasts, saying all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians. The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 13, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke towered over the nearby coastline. They knocked out windows and caused other damage in some apartment buildings.
Russian warplanes have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine's south on short notice, and Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles hit the base.
Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on "decision-making centers" in Kyiv.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, who is more outspoken than other officials, cryptically said Tuesday that the blasts were caused either by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon or were the work of guerrillas operating in Crimea.
On the other hand, Moscow insisted Tuesday that major blasts at a key military airbase on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula were caused by exploding ammunition rather than Ukrainian fire.
Dramatic amateur footage shared on social media appeared to show panicked holidaymakers fleeing a Crimean beach with young children, as ballooning clouds of grey smoke rose over the horizon.
The blasts rocked the Saki airfield on the 167th day of Moscow's invasion.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has used the region as a staging ground for its attacks on Ukraine, but it has rarely been a target for Ukrainian forces.
The Russian defence ministry said "several aviation munitions detonated" at the base in an incident the head of the region said had left one person dead.
Local health officials earlier said five people, including one child, had been injured.
The defence ministry said it was looking to establish the reason for the explosions but indicated the airfield was not targeted in an attack.
There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv. -AP, AFP