Crimea ‘sabotage’ highlights Russia’s woes in Ukraine war | Russia–Ukraine War

The attacks on the peninsula may indicate that Ukrainian agents are able to penetrate deep into Russian-occupied territory.

A series of fires and explosions have turned Russia’s annexed Crimea into a safe base for the continued invasion of Ukraine in the latest flashpoint, highlighting Moscow’s challenges ahead in a war that is approaching halfway through the year.

A British defense intelligence statement said on Wednesday that: “Russian commanders will most likely become increasingly concerned about the apparent deterioration in security throughout Crimea, which serves as a rear base for the occupation.”

Even Russia itself recognized that it was a “act of sabotagewhich sparked Tuesday’s explosions and fires that tore through an ammunition depot near Dzhankoi in once-secure Crimea, resulting in chaotic scenes when around 3,000 people had to be evacuated.

As a stark reminder of Russia’s vulnerability in Crimea, detonations at the depot near Dzhankoi were still continuing on Wednesday.

Fire and ambulance vehicles are parked in the settlement of Azovske following an explosion at a Russian military warehouse in Dzhankoi district, Crimea, August 16, 2022 [Stringer/Reuters]

A week earlier, the Russian military in Crimea had already come under pressure when Ukraine said nine Russian fighter jets had been destroyed following explosions. At the time, Moscow still offered the possibility of a wayward cigarette butt as the cause.

Such explanations would no longer suffice as the war, which had long centered on brutal fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, has now given southern Crimea increasing importance.

The deteriorating outlook in Crimea was a report by business newspaper Kommersant, which said explosions also took place near Gvardeyskoye in the center of the peninsula. On Wednesday, there was still no comment from the Russian authorities.

The British intelligence report states that Gvardeyskoye and Dzhankoi “are home to two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea”.

Ukraine has refrained from claiming responsibility for any of the explosions, including those at another air base in Crimea last week. Russia seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and used it to launch attacks against Ukraine in the war that began on February 24.

If Ukrainian forces were behind the explosions, it would represent a significant escalation of the war. Such attacks could also indicate that Ukrainian agents are able to penetrate deep into Russian-occupied territory.

On the Eastern Front, the stalemate between the two camps continues, the brutality of the bombardments causing ever more death and destruction.

In the Donetsk region, at the forefront of the Russian offensive, two civilians were killed and seven others injured by recent Russian shelling of several towns and villages.

Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers fired cruise missiles at the Odessa region overnight, injuring four, according to Odessa regional administration spokesman Oleh Bratchuk.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, two Russian missiles damaged a university building on Wednesday morning but did not injure anyone.

Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv and various parts of the Kharkiv region overnight, damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure but causing no casualties.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to travel to Ukraine for a meeting in the western city of Lviv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are expected to discuss grain shipments and a possible fact-finding mission to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia and Ukraine have mutually accused each other of bombing.

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