Ukraine Says Crimea Blasts Destroyed 9 Russian Planes

Russia denies aircraft were damaged in Saki explosions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 9, 2022 6:56 PM CDT
Updated Aug 10, 2022 12:54 PM CDT
Explosions Rock Russian Base in Crimea
Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saki after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, Tuesday Aug. 9, 2022.   (UGC via AP)

Update: Ukraine's air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea, amid speculation the blasts were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a significant escalation in the war, the AP reports. Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday's blasts—or that any attack took place. Ukrainian officials stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while mocking Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker might have caused ammunition at the Saki air base to catch fire and blow up. Crimea’s regional leader, Sergei Aksyonov, said dozens of apartment buildings were damaged in the blasts. Our story from Tuesday follows:

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, the AP reports. Russian warplanes have used the Saki base to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice.

Videos posted on social networks showed sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon from multiple points, accompanied by loud booms. Crimea Today News said on Telegram that witnesses reported fire on a runway and damage to nearby homes as a result of what it said were dozens of blasts. Russia’s state news agency Tass quoted an unidentified ministry source as saying the explosions’ primary cause appeared to be a "violation of fire safety requirements." The ministry said no warplanes were damaged.

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Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said sarcastically on Facebook: “The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot establish the cause of the fire, but once again recalls the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places." Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on "decision-making centers" in Kyiv. For his part, Ukraine's president vowed to retake Crimea from Russia, which annexed the peninsula in 2014. "This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea—its liberation," Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday in his nightly video address. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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