UPDATE – Five injured as blasts rock Russian air base in annexed Crimea

Reading Time: 4 minutes

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Blasts rocked a Russian air base near seaside resorts in the annexed Crimean peninsula on Thursday, injuring five people according to local authorities in what Moscow attributed to detonations in ammunition stories. 

Local witnesses told Reuters they heard at least 12 explosions around 3:20 p.m. local time (1220 GMT) from the Saky air base near Novofedorivka on Crimea’s western coast. They described a final blast around 30 minutes later as the loudest.

Crimea has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine since Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian armed forces into Ukraine – including some based in the peninsula. 

Russia’s defence ministry said the “detonation of several aviation ammunition stores” had caused an explosion, Russian news agencies reported, but that there had been no injuries.

However, the head of Crimea’s health department said five people had been injured, including one child, according to the state-run news agency TASS.

No comment was immediately available from Ukraine.

The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, posted a video on his Telegram channel from close to the base.

He said a five-kilometre (three-mile) exclusion zone had been established around the site, and that local authorities were monitoring fires.

The defence ministry said there had not been any kind of attack and that no aviation equipment had been damaged. Moscow said further measures were being taken to establish the causes.

The base is close to the seaside resorts of Novofedorivka and Saky, but the Russian tourism association ATOS said they did not appear to have been affected by the blasts. Nevertheless, locals reported congestion on roads leading away from the coast.

Numerous videos taken from beaches were posted on social media, showing huge plumes of smoke rising into the sky in the distance. The videos could not immediately be verified.

Novofedorivka and Saky are around 50 km (30 miles) north of the port of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which Moscow leased from Kyiv for decades before seizing and annexing the entire peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, in a move not recognised by most other countries.

Earlier

Three local witnesses told Reuters they had heard loud explosions and seen black smoke rising from the direction of a Russian military airbase at Novofedorivka on the annexed Crimean peninsula on Tuesday.

Videos purportedly captured at the scene, some of them posted on social media and shot from nearby tourist beaches, showed a plume of smoke. The videos could not immediately be verified. According to the Kyiv Independent, the Russian Defense Ministry said the blasts occurred due to detonation of munitions.

At least 12 explosions of varying intensity were heard in the course of a minute around 15:30 p.m. local time (1230 GMT), two witnesses said. Three were particularly loud, triggering sparks and smoke.

Around 30 minutes later, one more blast, described by witnesses as the loudest of all, triggered two more plumes of smoke and dust. In the nearby town of Saky, sirens blared.

The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said in a post on his Telegram channel that he had gone to the area and that the “circumstances are being clarified”.

An advisor to Aksyonov confirmed that explosions had occurred but declined to comment on the possible cause, Russian news agencies reported.

Emergency services were deployed, the TASS news agency reported, citing the regional health ministry.

Locals reported congestion on roads leading away from the coast.

Russia for decades leased the naval port of Sevastopol, home of its Black Sea Fleet, from Kyiv, but in 2014 annexed the entire peninsula from Ukraine in a move not recognised by most other countries.

Crimea has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine since Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian armed forces into Ukraine – including some based in the peninsula.

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Cawthorne

via Reuters

Photo Screen Grab via Twitter

Once you're here...

%d bloggers like this: