Ukraine hints it has blown up Russian missiles in occupied Crimea

    A “mysterious explosion” destroyed Russian cruise missiles transported through occupied Crimea, Ukraine said Tuesday, days after President Vladimir Putin visited the Black Sea region.

    The apparent attack was the last to take place behind Russian lines on the annexed peninsula, and comes as officials in Kiev suggest retaking the area remains a priority for the country’s military ahead of a planned offensive later this year.

    Ukraine has previously refused to take responsibility for attacks in Crimea and that was the case this time.

    The country’s defense ministry reported this in a Telegram after that “Kalibr NK” missiles, designed to be launched from the Russian naval fleet in the Black Sea, had been destroyed.

    “The mysterious [explosions] continue the process of demilitarization of Russia and prepare the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea for occupation,” the post said, adding that the missiles were transported by rail.

    The missiles can hit land targets up to 1,500 miles away and sea targets nearly 150 miles away, the Defense Department added.

    Footage posted to social media geolocated by NBC News showed an aircraft flying near a railway yard in the Dzhankoi area, northern Crimea. It then plunged to the ground and burst into flames. Then a loud explosion was heard. The person filming the video can then be heard asking, “Did it hit my house?”

    A Russian military air base is located near Dzhankoi, and Ukrainian officials have long argued that the city and surrounding areas have turned into Moscow’s largest military base in Crimea.

    One person was injured with a house and shop damaged in the Dzhankoi area, Russia-installed Crimea chief Sergey Aksyonov said in a Telegram after.

    “Air defenses worked,” he said, without naming the missiles or specifying what kind of attack it was.

    In a separate post on his own Telegram channel, Aksyonov’s adviser Oleg Kryuchkov said the attack targeted civilians.

    “All drones were aimed at civilian locations,” he wrote, alongside photos showing a crashed small plane. “There are no military installations nearby,” he added.

    NBC News was unable to independently verify their claims.

    Russia has bombarded Ukrainian cities with high-precision cruise missiles launched mostly from its warships, often hitting civilian targets. Russia has denied targeting civilian infrastructure.

    While much of the fighting in recent months has centered around the eastern city of Bakhmut, analysts say the explosion in Crimea could mean Ukraine continues its offensive against strategic targets elsewhere.

    “It allows Ukrainians to collect intelligence on Russian responses to Crimea as Ukrainian forces plan future military operations there,” said Mick Ryan, a retired major general and deputy fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. , a Washington-based think tank. , said further Twitter.

    Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, first by force and later by referendum, which the US and much of the international community have called a sham. It has since become the main supply route for his forces in the south and east.

    There have been several attacks on the peninsula since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

    In August, an ammunition depot, also in Dzhankoi, was hit by a series of explosions, which Russia called an act of “sabotage” at the time.

    In October, another explosion destroyed part of the Kerch Bridge that connected the Russian mainland to the Crimean peninsula. Putin took personally the project to connect Crimea to the Russian mainland and the 12-mile structure built after the annexation, so the attack, which Ukraine did not claim, was a symbolic blow.

    “Strikes like this are not silver bullets that win the war. But their impact is cumulative in the deterioration of Russian morale and war capability,” Ryan said.

    The latest explosion came just two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on Saturday — the day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him for allegedly overseeing the war crime of the unlawful abduction and deportation of children from Ukraine To Russia. .

    During his visit Friday, Putin spoke of no intention of loosening his grip. “It is clear that security issues are now the top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We will do everything we can to fend off any threats.”

    Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy has vowed to take back the area.

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