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Belbek airfield strikes destroyed 3 Russian planes, satellite images suggest

by Chris York May 17, 2024 10:11 AM 3 min read
MIG-31K military aircraft perform during Victory Day over the Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on June 24, 2020. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Satellite imagery from May 16 of the aftermath of suspected Ukrainian missile strikes on Russia's Belbek military airfield in occupied Crimea suggests three aircraft were recently destroyed.

The Crimean Wind Telegram channel claimed the airfield was attacked late on May 15 and that a fuel depot caught fire, while Russia's Defense Ministry claimed five U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles were intercepted overnight by "air defense systems on duty."

Attacks against the Belbek airfield were also reported the preceding night, which allegedly resulted in fires near the military facility.

Satellite images obtained by RFE/RL and The New York Times suggested two MiG-31s and one Su-27 were damaged if not totally destroyed.

The Ukrainian military has not commented on the attacks, but in its daily update, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported two Russian planes and one helicopter had been destroyed over the preceding 24 hours but gave no further details.

On May 16, the partisan group Atesh said the main missile and artillery depot of the Russian Belbek military airfield near occupied Sevastopol was damaged.

The partisans claimed the damaged depot stored "most of the missiles" for Russian Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets as well as MiG-31 aircraft, a carrier of Kinzhal ballistic missiles that Russia uses to attack Ukraine.

The partisans did not explicitly say whether the stored ammunition included Kinzhals.

"There was also significant damage to the airfield's infrastructure as a result of secondary detonation," Atesh claimed.

Atesh did not mention damaged or destroyed aircraft.

The Kyiv Independent could not verify all the claims.

Elsewhere, Ukraine allegedly launched a massive attack overnight on Russian targets on May 17, including the Novorossiysk port and oil facilities, with the Kremlin claiming to have destroyed more than 100 air and naval drones.

In a post on Telegram, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed 102 aerial and six naval drones had been intercepted and destroyed and did not report any damage or casualties.

"Air defense systems destroyed and intercepted 51 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles – edit.) over the territory of the Crimean peninsula, 44 UAVs over the territory of Krasnodar Krai, six UAVs over the territory of Belgorod Oblast, and one UAV over the territory of Kursk Oblast," it wrote.

"During the night, naval aviation and patrol boats of the Black Sea Fleet destroyed six unmanned boats in the Black Sea."

The claims could not be independently verified. Russian authorities regularly claim to have downed Ukrainian missiles and drones without reporting damage, though later reports at times emerge showing military targets or infrastructure that appear to have been struck.

If confirmed, it would be the largest drone attack by Ukraine throughout the entire full-scale war.

A previous attack in March saw the Kremlin claiming to have downed 65 drones.

Russia claims over 100 downed drones amid reports of massive drone attack on port, oil facilities
If confirmed, it would be the largest drone attack by Ukraine throughout the entire war. A previous attack in March saw the Kremlin claiming to have downed 65 drones.
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