Explosions have forced the Russian military to withdraw planes and helicopters from airbases in Crimea, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
Fires and explosions recently rocked several areas of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed to Ukraine by Russia in 2014. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian government said the damage had forced at least 24 planes and 14 helicopters to abandon their bases and retreat to sites. deeper into Russian territory.
“After the recent events in Crimea, the [Russians] urgently move their planes and helicopters deep into the peninsula and to the airfields of the Russian Federation,” said a Facebook Publish of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukrainian States.
“The occupants are taking steps to partially move aircraft equipment from advanced airfields in the Crimea to reserve airfields and airfields permanently based on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the message continues.
Russian planes which Ukraine says have been moved include three Sukhoi Su-27 jets, three Sukhoi Su-34 jets, three Sukhoi Su-35S jets and three additional planes which are “probably” Mikoyan MiG-31 supersonic interceptors .
One of the planes believed to be a MiG-31 was seen catching fire as it left Crimea, according to Ukraine. The planes would have left the bases on Wednesday and August 11.
At least 14 Russian helicopters also reportedly left Crimea on Wednesday, including six Kamov Ka-27s. Eight helicopters of an unspecified brand reportedly flew east towards a Russian base in Krasnodar.
Multiple videos shared online Last week showed explosions at a Russian military airbase in the Russian Saki district of Crimea. On Tuesday, online videos showed what appeared to be additional explosions near the Russian military installations in the Dzhankoi district.
The Russian military blamed at least some of the explosions on an “act of sabotage” without naming the alleged perpetrators, according to the Associated Press (AP). Russia said Tuesday’s explosions were caused by a fire at an ammunition depot.
In a move that could be linked to the explosions, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday that Igor Osipov, the current commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was being replaced, according at Reuters.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the explosions, although military analysts studying evidence, including satellite photos, suspect Ukraine was responsible, according to AP.
Ukraine has threatens strike inside the territory occupied by Russia, while the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted at possible involvement in the Crimean blasts as he thanked those “who oppose the occupiers on their backs” during a televised address on Tuesday evening.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian government for comment.