The explosions refocus the war in Ukraine on Crimea annexed by Russia

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The world’s attention on the war in Ukraine turned again on Tuesday to Russia’s annexed Crimea, where two separate fires, including one with massive explosions, injured at least two people. and forced the evacuation of approximately 2,000 residents.

The second incident in a week in Crimea has raised growing questions about whether Ukrainian forces succeeded in striking the peninsula. Videos posted to social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising above the raging flames, and a series of multiple explosions could be heard in the background.

“Russian-occupied Crimea is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” said a cryptic Twitter post from Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who did not claim responsibility for the incident. Ukraine in the incident.

The fire and explosions rocked the village of Mayskoye in Crimea’s Dzhankoi district early on Tuesday, Russian media also reported.

Another morning incident was reported in Dzhankoi itself – according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, a transformer station caught fire after “a loud noise”. The Russian Energy Ministry announced shortly after that the substation fire had been brought under control.

It was not immediately clear if the substation fire and the ammunition storage site fire were related.

Kyiv certainly reinforced a message of chaos.

“The morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea from a normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism,” Podolyak wrote, referring to the period before Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea. .

The Russian Defense Ministry said a fire broke out at a “temporary ammunition storage site of one of the military units”.

“As a result of the fire, the stored munitions exploded,” the ministry said, adding that the cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

Dzhankoi district in Crimea is in the north of the peninsula, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian-controlled Kherson region in southern Ukraine. Kyiv has recently launched a series of attacks on various sites in the region, targeting Russian army supply routes and ammunition depots.

Russian-appointed Crimean Governor Sergei Aksyonov said two people were injured in the latest incident and local residents were being evacuated from the area, as munitions explosions continued.

Aksyonov said some residential buildings were damaged near the site of the fire and around 2,000 people were evacuated from nearby areas. According to Russian media, railway lines passing through Mayskoye were also damaged.

Aksyonov said all trains will be stopped in the town of Vladislavovka, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Mayskoye, and passengers can continue their journey by bus.

Last week, a series of explosions occurred at the Saki air base near the village of Novofyodorovka in Crimea. The Russian military blamed the explosions on an accidental detonation of ammunition there, but the incident appears to be the result of a Ukrainian attack. Kyiv said the blasts destroyed nine Russian planes.

Ukrainian officials at the time refrained from publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while mocking Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker could have caused the fire and explosion of munitions at the airbase by Saki. Analysts also said that this explanation made no sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to hit the base.

The Crimean peninsula is of enormous strategic and symbolic importance for both sides. The Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia has been one of its main conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has pledged to drive the Russians out of the peninsula and all other occupied territories.

And an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defense claimed that in the waters off Crimea, surface ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet “continue to adopt an extremely defensive posture”, the boats s barely venturing out of sight of the coastline.

Russia has already lost its flagship Moskva in the Black Sea and last month the Ukrainian military recaptured the strategic outpost of Snake Island off Ukraine’s southwest coast, vital to securing the sea ​​routes from Odessa, the largest port in Ukraine.

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

Ukraine’s Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Tuesday that one civilian was killed in the area in the latest Russian bombardment and two others were injured.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, one civilian was killed and nine others injured by Russian shelling, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said. He added that the night attack on the city was “one of the most massive bombardments in Kharkiv in recent days”.

Officials from the central Dniprotpetrovsk region also reported the shelling of Nikopol and Kryvyi Rih districts.

A man watches from an apartment destroyed after a Russian bombardment in Nikopol, Ukraine, August 15, 2022.

Kostiantyn Liberov via Associated Press

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