Russian ammunition depot destroyed in Crimea
Russia’s state news agency TASS reported the explosion today (August 16), citing authorities in the village of Mayskoye. Pictures and video footage shared online show a huge explosion and plumes of smoke rising from the ground.
One video shared via Twitter account Special Kherson Cat appeared to show a massive fireball reportedly in the village of Azovsk.
Pictures shared by the same account are accompanied by the message: “Russian ammunition depot in Crimea, village of Azovske. 200 kilometers behind enemy lines.”
It has not been possible to independently verify the photos or videos.
Earlier on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reported a fire on a transformer substation near the town of Dzhankoi in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Explosions have been reported at an ammo dump and substation in in Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia’s Defence Ministry said there were no serious casualties in the explosion at the ammunition depot in Russian-controlled Crimea, according to a report from state-owned news agency RIA.
Interfax quoted the Defence Ministry as saying a fire had broken out at a temporary storage area of the ammunition depot.
In a thread from the Twitter account ChrisO_wiki, whose bio says they are an independent military historian, said: “Depending on exactly where the seat of the explosion is, this could have a lot of strategic significance.
“The only direct railway line from Russia to Crimea runs through [Mayskoye]. It’s therefore possible this explosion has severed one of Russia’s main routes into Crimea and southern Ukraine. It will be particularly difficult to fix if it’s scattered unexploded ordnance over a wide area.
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“Following the earlier HIMARS attack on a Russian ammunition train at Brylivka on the line from Dzhankoi to Kherson, I suggested that the Russians would likely seek to relocate their ammunition dumps and truck-train interchange points to places outside of HIMARS range…
“So the dump at [Mayskoye] may represent ammunition that the Russians were hoping was now out of the Ukrainians’ reach.”
The Twitter user added: “It’s not impossible that the ammunition explosion in [Mayskoye] was an accident – Russia has expended vast amounts of ammunition and is now likely relying on older stocks, which tend to be less stable. Particularly with reliance on manual labour, accidents are quite possible.
“But there’s also reportedly been an explosion at a transformer station in Dzhankoi… It doesn’t look like a coincidence that both have happened on the same morning. Could this represent a coordinated Ukrainian attack, perhaps using sabotage, to paralyse Russian rail transport in Crimea?”
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Ukrainian MP Alexey Goncharenko shared a video on Twitter, commenting: “Crimea! Right now, an ammunition depot in Dzhankoi exploded. Dzhankoi is an important railway junction for the Russian army through which they transfer weapons and personnel. Glory to Ukraine!”
The footage, which has not been independently verified, shows fires raging and a series of explosions.
In a second tweet, Mr Goncharenko claimed: “An electric substation that worked for the railway also exploded in [Russian] occupied Dzhankoi. The movement of trains with ammunition has been stopped for some time.”
The Ukrainian MP continued: “Putin and [former Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev threatened doomsday for strikes on Crimea. Now, after many strikes on military facilities in Crimea, only one conclusion can be drawn: Putin understands only power. And when we show it, he is immediately silent and tries to negotiate.”
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News of the blasts come as Britain said today that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is currently struggling to exercise effective sea control, with patrols generally limited to the waters within sight of the Crimean coast.
The Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet continues to use long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives but is keeping a defensive posture.
The update added the Black Sea Fleet’s currently limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to Odesa has now been largely neutralised.
Meanwhile, TASS reported Russian Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev as saying Moscow would never let anyone destroy the Crimean Bridge, which links the peninsula with mainland Russia.
The Russian flag waves in front of the Ukrainian military ship the Slavutich moored off Sebastopol
Mr Kosachev was speaking to the Rossiya-24 TV channel after remarks reportedly made by Ukrainian politicians about plans to target the bridge.
TASS reports him as saying: “Definitely, we will let no one destroy the Crimean Bridge under any circumstances. Certain risks were taken into account during its construction even though it was hard to imagine the threat of direct attacks at that time.”
Mr Goncharenko wrote on Telegram that Ukraine had discussed plans to destroy the Crimean Bridge with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on the sidelines of a NATO summit in June.
Kyiv also claimed the Ukrainian army might attack the bridge once it had the technical ability.
Last week, one person was killed when a Russian air base near seaside resorts in the annexed peninsula was rocked by blasts which Moscow had claimed were detonations of stored ammunition not the result of an attack.
Witnesses said they heard at least 12 explosions from the Saky air base near Novofedorivka on the west coast of the peninsula, which Russia used in as one of the launchpads for its invasion.
Crimea, a holiday destination for many Russians, had up till then been spared the bombardment and artillery combat other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine have suffered.
Russia’s Defence Ministry was adamant the “detonation of several aviation ammunition stores” had caused an explosion and initially said no one had been harmed. It said there had been no attack and no aviation equipment had been damaged.
However, satellite pictures showed the scale of devastation at the air base hit in an attack which suggested Kyiv may have obtained new, long-range strike capability with potential to change the course of the war.
Mr Wallace said it was “clear” explosions at the air base were not caused by “someone dropping a cigarette” in comments aimed at dismissing Moscow’s “excuses” for the blasts.