Massive explosions and fires ripped through Crimea on Tuesday, forcing 3,000 residents to flee their homes as the war in Ukraine appears to be spreading to the peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014.
The Russian Defense Ministry blamed “sabotage” for explosions at a military warehouse near Dzhankoya. Power lines, a power plant, a railway track and a number of residential buildings were damaged, the ministry said in a statement obtained by the Russian news outlet Kommersant. The explosion was described as a diversion.
No serious injuries were reported. Another fire was reported at a power substation, but officials did not indicate whether it was related to the ammunition blast. “We are in a state of emergency,” said Sergey Aksenov, the Russian leader of the Crimean administration.
Ukraine advise presidential Mykhailo Podolyak did not say the country claimed responsibility for the incident but tweeted that“Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves.”
Last week, the Russian military blamed a series of explosions at Crimea’s Saki air base on an accidental detonation of munitions there, but the incident appeared to be a Ukrainian attack. Kyiv said the explosions destroyed nine Russian airplanes.
The deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, warned last month that attacks on Crimea could result in a “doomsday, very quick and tough, immediately.”
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►German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he believes Sweden and Finland will be able to join NATO “very quickly.” Scholz said Turkey, which had balked, appears satisfied and that the other six nations that have not approved the expansion would likely do so soon.
►Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli Group announced it will “exit the Russian market.” The company had temporarily suspended operations in March.
►More than 1,350 bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian occupiers have been found in the Kyiv region, regional Police Chief Andrii Niebytov said.
►The Russian Federal Security Service accused Ukraine of blowing up power transmission towers three times this month near a nuclear plant in the western Russia city of Kursk.
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Russia doesn’t need to rely on nuclear weapons to achieve its objectives in Ukraine, said Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, contending that his country’s battlefield progress has dispelled the notion that the West can supply Ukraine with “superweapons” capable of radically altering the war’s outcome.
“From a military point of view, there is no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to achieve the set goals,” Shoigu said. “Claims that chemical weapons could be used in Ukraine are also absurd.”
Shoigu, speaking at the the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security, said the West’s best weaponry is being “ground down in battles” and has had no major impact on the fighting.
In reality, first US weapons like the HIMARS missile system have been effective at destroying Russian ammunition depots and command centers and disrupting its supply lines, American and Ukrainian officials have said. But the Biden administration has not sent Ukraine the longer-range ammunition that could strike Russian targets from hundreds of miles away.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet is “struggling to exercise effective sea control,” the British Defense Ministry said in an assessment released Tuesday. The fleet continues to use long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives but has been less effective because of the loss of its flagship — the now-sunken Moskva — a significant portion of its naval aviation combat jets and control of Snake Island, the assessment says.
The issues undermine Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to the crucial Ukraine port of Odesa has now been largely neutralized, the assessment says: “This means Ukraine can divert resources to press Russian ground forces elsewhere.”
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the world Tuesday to honor civilians who were killed when Russian ground forces tried to invade Ukraine’s capital and eventually retreated from the area surrounding Kyiv. Ban, a former South Korean diplomat who served as secretary-general between 2007 and 2016, visited Bucha, a city northwest of the Ukrainian capital where hundreds of civilians were found dead after the Russian withdrawal in late March.
“It’s hard to express my feelings. It’s a horrible atrocity. It’s a crime against humanity,” Ban told The Associated Press after visiting the Church of St. Andrew the Apostle. He said those responsible should be held accountable.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his allies “the most advanced types of weapons,” vowing to expand military cooperation with countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa. Putin, speaking at an arms show, applauded his military’s actions in Ukraine while also touting the key role Russian arms exports play in the development of a “multipolar word,” the term used by the Kremlin to describe its efforts to offset what it perceives as US global dominance.
“We are ready to offer our allies and partners the most advanced types of weapons: from firearms, armor and artillery to warplanes and drones,” Putin said.
Despite the Russian leader’s claims of advanced weapons, experts have said that the Russian military is performing much worse than expected in the Ukrainian invasion, and the UK Defense Ministry recently said it’s highly likely that Russia is deploying “unreliable and unpredictable” Soviet-era mines .
Mercenaries’ building bombed after online photo reveals address
A photo posted online by a pro-Kremlin journalist appears to have led to the destruction of a building that housed mercenaries fighting for Russia.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Russian-controlled Luhansk province in the eastern Donbas region, said by Telegram on Monday that a Ukrainian strike “hit an enemy headquarters, which was pointed out by a representative of the Russian mass media.” He added that the number of fatalities was still unknown.
The building hit Sunday in the town of Popasna served as a base of operations for the Wagner Group, a private military company linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Haidai said.
Days before the strike, Russian journalist Sergey Sreda had posted a photo of himself alongside four heavily armed men in combat gear, most likely Wagner mercenaries. On the top left of the photo, a sign with the address of the building can be clearly seen. Sreda later took down the post, but apparently not before the Ukrainians saw it.
Contributing: The Associated Press