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Explosions at ammunition depot damage railway in occupied Crimea

by Asami TerajimaAugust 16, 2022 3:38 pm

Explosions at ammunition depot damage railway in occupied CrimeaA picture capturing an explosion in northern Crimea early on Aug. 16, 2022. (Oleksiy Honcharenko/Telegram)

A series of explosions were reported in the northern part of Russian-occupied Crimea early on Aug. 16.

According to the Crimea Inform news site, a fire broke out at a transformer substation in the town of Dzhankoi, and in the nearby village of Maiske ammunition detonated at a depot. 

Sergey Aksyonov, a Russian-installed proxy in occupied Crimea, said that two people were injured as a result of the explosions at the ammunition depot in Maiske.

Around 2,000 local residents have been evacuated from the area, according to Aksyonov.

Kremlin-controlled media TASS reported that 10 kilometers of the railway line between the Azovske and Rozizd stations were damaged following the explosions.

The Russian Defense Ministry said following the blasts that “as a result of sabotage,” a Dzhankoi military warehouse and a number of civilian infrastructures were damaged but did not go into details on who may have been behind the incident.

Ukraine hasn’t confirmed its involvement. However, Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said following the explosions that Ukraine’s deoccupying operation will continue until all Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories are liberated, adding that “Crimea is Ukraine.”

The blasts occurred in the Black Sea peninsula territories not far from the administrative border with mainland Ukraine, about 30 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Dzhankoi is home to a major railway station and is considered the “gateway” to occupied Crimea, through which Russia is transferring troops, ammunition, and equipment to occupied regions in the south of Ukraine.

Railway traffic between the peninsula and the rest of occupied parts of southern Ukraine and Russia is believed to have been disrupted due to the Aug. 16 blasts.

Russian state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti reported that a part of the rail traffic in northern Crimea had been suspended, with seven passenger trains not reaching their destination.

Shortly after reports about explosions in Maiske, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that, according to locals, more explosions were heard from the direction of a military airbase in the village of Hvardiiske, near the city of Simferopol, in central Crimea. The witnesses told Kommersant that they saw black smoke rising above the military airbase.

According to the media, the Russian military is currently “checking the version of an attack by a small unmanned aerial vehicle on an ammunition depot (at the base).”

The reported Aug. 16 incidents followed a series of explosions earlier in August at a Russian military airbase in Novofedorivka, western Crimea. Following the reported blasts at the territory of the Saky airfield, Russia’s proxies in the peninsula said a person was killed and 13 had been injured. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed then that they were caused by ammunition detonation.

Pictures taken on Aug. 10 by independent satellite firm Planet Labs shows the charred remains of at least seven aircraft in the Saky airfield. Kyiv said that nine Russian aircraft were destroyed in a string of deadly explosions at the site.

Contrary to what is shown on satellite images, Russia claims that no aircraft at the Saky airfield were damaged.

Ukraine hasn’t confirmed its involvement in the attack in Novofedorivka.

However, the Washington Post and the New York Times published reports each quoting anonymous Ukrainian officials admitting that it was an attack carried out by Kyiv. If true, it may suggest that Kyiv might have obtained new long-range strike capability that could change the course of the war.=

After the Aug. 9 blasts in Crimea, Russian occupiers have begun relocating their families from the coastline settlements near occupied Mariupol, according to Petro Andriushchenko, advisor to the mayor of Mariupol.

Ever since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moscow has been using Crimea as a base to launch missiles at various regions across Ukraine.

According to an investigation by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemes program published in late March, Russian forces were using about 40 airfields in occupied Crimea, Belarus and western Russia to attack Ukraine.

For a long time, Moscow officials have threatened Ukraine, saying that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, which could include strikes on “decision-making centers” in Kyiv.

Despite Russia’s threats, President Volodymyr Zelensky repeatedly vowed to retake Crimea, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014. In an evening address that followed the explosions at the Saky airfield, he reiterated this goal.

While de-occupying Crimea is not expected to happen anytime soon, Ukraine has already begun its counter-offensive campaign in the south, centered around Kherson Oblast which fell shortly after the first days of the all-out war.

“This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation,” Zelensky said.

Note from the author:

Hi, this is Asami Terajima.While writing this article, I couldn’t stop thinking of the beautiful sunset I saw over the sea in Yalta, a city in southern Crimea, just months before Russia invaded the peninsula in February 2014. Eight years later, Ukraine is facing its darkest hour and nothing has been more important to me than keeping the world informed on the latest developments happening at home. I moved to Ukraine when I was small and it means a lot to me that I can be here, helping the country that I have come to love so much. 

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Asami Terajima
Asami Terajima
National reporter

Asami Terajima is a national reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She previously worked as a business reporter for the Kyiv Post focusing on international trade, infrastructure, investment and energy.

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