Tue. Feb 20th, 2024

Kyiv: Massive explosions and fires hit a military depot in Russia-annexed Crimea on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people, the second time in recent days that the Ukraine war’s focus has turned to the peninsula. Russia has blamed saboteurs for blasts at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye without naming the perpetrators.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the fires at the depot caused damage to a power plant, power lines, rail tracks and some apartment buildings. It said in a statement that there were no serious injuries.

The Dzhankoi district, where the blasts happened, is in the north of the peninsula, about 50 kilometres from the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

Videos posted on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising over raging flames in Mayskoye and a series of explosions in the background.

The incident comes after a series of explosions last week which led to speculation that Ukraine may be behind the attack on the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014.

Last week’s explosions at Crimea’s Saki air base sent sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon.

Kyiv has recently mounted a series of attacks on various sites in the region, targeting supply routes for the Russian military there and ammunition depots.

Ukraine has stopped publicly claiming responsibility for any of the fires or explosions, including last week at another air base that destroyed nine Russian planes. If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for any of the explosions, they would represent a significant escalation in the war.

Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s demand that Kyiv recognises 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.

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