Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard in Crimea. AP
Explosions and fires ripped through an ammunition depot in Russian-occupied Crimea on Tuesday. Russia blamed saboteurs for explosions at one of its military bases in Moscow-annexed Crimea while Kyiv hinted it was responsible as Ukrainian officials said their strategy was to destroy supply lines supporting Russia's invasion.
The blasts on Tuesday engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the north of the Crimean peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.
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Russia blamed the blasts in the village of Mayskoye on an "act of sabotage,” without naming the perpetrators.
Separately, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant quoted residents as saying plumes of black smoke also rose over an air base in Crimea’s Gvardeyskoye.
Smoke rises over the site of explosion at an ammunition storage of Russian army in Crimea, on Tuesday. AP
Plumes of smoke were later seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia's Kommersant newspaper said. The action followed last week's explosions at a Russian military air base in western Crimea that destroyed eight warplanes.
Russia's defence ministry said Tuesday's explosions at the ammunition depot were "a result of sabotage". The Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and the base for its Black Sea fleet.
Ukraine stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for any of the blasts, including those that destroyed nine Russian planes at another Crimean air base last week. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has used it to launch attacks against Ukraine in the war that began nearly six months ago.
Ukraine did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosions though its officials openly cheered Russia's setbacks there.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and chief of staff Andriy Yermak both exulted on social media at "demilitarisation", an apparent mocking reference to the word Russia uses to justify its invasion.
Firefighting and ambulance vehicles are parked in Azovske following an explosion in Crimea, on Tuesday. Reuters
"Operation 'demilitarisation' in the precise style of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue until the complete de-occupation of Ukraine's territories," Yermak wrote on Telegram.
Podolyak told Britain's Guardian newspaper later that Ukraine's strategy was to destroy Russian "logistics, supply lines and ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. It's creating a chaos within their own forces."
As Kyiv considers a potential counter-offensive in the south, the explosions raised the prospect of new dynamics in the six-month-old war if Ukraine now has capability to strike deeper in Russian-occupied territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks.
In Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, Russian authorities said local air defenses shot down a drone above the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
"Several explosions in Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "Services are already working on site.
"Ships of the Black Sea Fleet repelled a drone attack in the waters of the Sevastopol Bay," the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said on Telegram. "Nothing has been hit in the city. We remain calm. The situation is under control."
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