- Blasts and fires hit a military depot in Crimea, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people.
- Russia blames the blasts on an “act of sabotage” without naming the perpetrators.
- It’s the second time in recent days that focus has turned to the contested peninsula.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated when a military installation in Russia-annexed Crimea was hit by large explosions and fires on Tuesday.
This is the second time recently that the contested peninsula has come under the spotlight of the Ukraine war.
Without identifying the perpetrators, Russia attributed the explosions at a Mayskoye ammo storage site to a “act of sabotage”.
They sparked concern that Ukrainian forces may have planned an offensive on the peninsula, which Russia has held since 2014. This is similar to last week’s explosions.
Separately, locals were reported by the Russian business newspaper Kommersant as stating that black smoke plumes also ascended over an aviation base in the Crimean town of Gvardeyskoye.
The explosion and fire at another air base last week that resulted in the destruction of many Russian aircraft have not yet been formally blamed on Ukraine.
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The explosions would mark a dramatic conflict escalation if Ukrainian forces were in fact behind any of them.
Videos shared on social media showed massive smoke plumes rising over Mayskoye’s blazing fires, with explosions audible in the distance.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the fires at the depot damaged some housing structures, a power plant, electricity cables, and rail tracks. There were “no significant injuries,” according to a statement.
Earlier, what looked to be a result of the blasts at the depot was reported as a fire at a transformer substation by Russia’s official news agency, RIA Novosti.
For Russia and Ukraine, Crimea is of great strategic and symbolic significance. The Kremlin’s demand that Kyiv recognize the peninsula as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.
Dzhankoi, the area where the explosions took place, located in the north of the peninsula and is about 30 miles from Kherson, the southern Ukrainian province governed by Russia.
Kyiv has recently launched a number of attacks on various locations in the area, focusing on munitions stores and Russian military supply routes.
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