Explosions rocked a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday. Russia unilaterally annexed the region eight years ago. Russia denied that the base was attacked. But some media reports point to involvement of Ukrainians.
Russia’s defense ministry says munitions exploded at the base.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense ministry says it has not yet determined the cause of the blasts.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that a senior Ukrainian official said, “the attack involved partisan resistance forces loyal to the government in Kyiv”, but he would not disclose whether those forces carried out the attack or assisted regular Ukrainian military units in targeting the base, as has sometimes occurred in other Russian-occupied territories.
To reach targets deep behind enemy lines, Ukraine has increasingly turned to guerrillas in Russian-occupied territories, officials said. Partisans, for instance, have helped Ukrainian forces target Russian bases and ammunition depots in the Kherson Region, Ukrainian officials say.
Publicly, Ukrainian officials on Tuesday would not confirm the involvement of Ukraine’s military. Ukraine’s defense ministry said in a statement that it could not “determine the cause of the explosion,” and suggested that personnel at the base adhere to no-smoking regulations.
Other officials did not exactly deny that Ukraine was behind the explosion.
“The future of the Crimea is to be a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique nature and a world resort, not a military base for terrorists,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said in a tweet. “It is just the beginning.”
A US think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, said on Tuesday, “The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems.” The think tank added that the institute “does not yet have any basis independently to assess the precise cause of the explosions.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Tuesday, “Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up.”