Ukraine: 9 Russia Warplanes Destroyed 08/10 06:04
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's air force said Wednesday that nine Russian
warplanes were destroyed in massive explosions at an air base in Crimea amid
speculation they were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a
significant escalation in the war.
Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday's blasts -- or that any
attack took place.
Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility
for the explosions, while poking fun at Russia's explanation that munitions at
the Saki air base caught fire and blew up and also underscoring the importance
of the peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago.
In his nightly video address several hours after the blasts, Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to retake the peninsula, saying that "this
Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea
and must end with Crimea -- its liberation."
On Wednesday, Russian authorities sought to downplay the blasts, saying all
hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist
destination for many Russians. The explosions, which killed one person and
wounded 13, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke towered over the
nearby coastline. They knocked out windows and caused other damage in some
Russian warplanes have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine's south on short
notice, and Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that
Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles hit the base.
Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would
trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on "decision-making centers" in
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, who is more outspoken
than other officials, cryptically said Tuesday that the blasts were caused
either by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon or were the work of guerrillas
operating in Crimea.
The base on the Black Sea peninsula that dangles off southern Ukraine is at
least 200 kilometers (some 125 miles) away from the closest Ukrainian position
-- out of the range of the missiles supplied by the U.S. for use in the HIMARS
The Ukrainian military has successfully used those missiles, with a range of
80 kilometers (50 miles), to target ammunition and fuel depots, strategic
bridges and other key targets in Russia-occupied territories. HIMARS could also
fire longer-range rockets, with a range of up to 300 kilometers (about 185
miles), that Ukraine has asked for.
But U.S. authorities have refrained from providing them thus far, fearing
that it could provoke Russia and widen the conflict. But the explosions in Saki
raised speculation on social media that Ukraine might have finally got the
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that the Ukrainian forces could
have struck the Russian air base with a Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missile
that has a range of about 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) and could have been
adapted for use against ground targets and could be fired from Ukrainian
positions near Mykolaiv northwest of Crimea.
The Ukrainian military also might have used Western-supplied Harpoon
anti-ship missiles that can also be used against ground targets and have a
range of about 300 kilometers (about 185 miles), he said.
"Official Kyiv has kept mum about it, but unofficially the military
acknowledges that it was a Ukrainian strike," Zhdanov said.
If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for the blasts, it would be
the first known major attack on a Russian military site in Crimea, which the
Kremlin annexed in 2014. A smaller explosion last month at the headquarters of
Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol was blamed on
Ukrainian saboteurs using a makeshift drone.
During the war, Russia has reported numerous fires and explosions at
munitions storage sites on its territory near the Ukrainian border, blaming
some of them on Ukrainian strikes. Ukrainian authorities have mostly remained
silent about the incidents.
Meanwhile, Russian shelling hit areas across Ukraine on Tuesday night into
Wednesday, including the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, where 13 people were
killed and 11 others were wounded, according to the region's governor Valentyn
Reznichenko said the Russian forces fired at the city of Marganets and a
nearby village. Dozens of residential buildings, two schools and several
administrative buildings were damaged by the shelling.
"It was a terrible night," Reznichenko said. "It's very hard to take bodies
from under debris. We are facing a cruel enemy who engage in daily terror
against our cities and villages."
The Russian forces also continued shelling the nearby city of Nikopol across
the Dnieper River from the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the power station,
Europe's biggest nuclear plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe.