Crimea: Onlookers watch huge explosion
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Ukraine has stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack, however, the timing of President Zelensky’s address has fuelled speculation over Ukrainian involvement. The explosions took place 125 miles behind the frontline, a fact which could spell disaster for Russia if it is confirmed that Ukraine has developed, or been provided, even longer range capabilities.
Shortly after the explosions, President Zelensky gave a video address on Telegram, reaffirming Ukraine’s commitment to retake the occupied Crimea.
He said: “Today, there is a lot of attention on the topic of Crimea. And rightly so. Because Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up.
“This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation.”
The President stopped short of addressing the blast, however, his senior advisor Mykhailo Podolyak hinted that Ukraine, or possibly saboteurs, may have been involved.
He said: “The future of the Crimean peninsula is to become a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique landscapes and a global resort, not a military base for terrorists. This is just the beginning.”
He later denied Ukraine’s direct involvement.
Russian holidaymakers reported hearing at least 12 explosions and video footage shows huge mushroom clouds rising over the military airbase while stunned beachgoers look on.
Tourists can be seen panicking on the beach, one woman told her elderly mother: “Mum, mum we have to get out of here”.
Another warned: “Your wooden hut is not going to do anything. Mum, let’s get out of here before it’s too late!”
The explosions have sparked rumours that Ukraine has received long-range ammunition for the HIMARS systems – this ammo can reach distances of more than 185 miles.
However, one Ukrainian official denied that Ukraine had used one of the ATACMS missiles which the Americans have been reluctant to supply Ukraine.
He told The New York Times the attack was carried out using a “device exclusively of Ukrainian nature”.
It is unclear which weapons Ukraine could have used, Ukrainian Neptune and British Harpoon missiles have the range to strike the peninsula, however, both are anti-ship missiles.
Aircraft-launched cruise missiles have not been widely used by Ukraine during the war and the commonly used ground-launched Tochka ballistic missiles only have a range of around 75 miles.
No matter the weapon, analysts agree that the long-range strike will present a major problem for Moscow.
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Already, command posts and ammunition dumps have been pushed back by US HIMARS and British M270 long-range artillery, stretching Russian supply lines thin.
If Ukraine has developed, or been provided, the ability to strike well over 100 miles into Russian-occupied territory, the Kremlin’s problems will only be exacerbated.
Crimea was seized by Russian forces in 2014 and was annexed into Russia following a referendum largely seen as fixed.
It is an extremely popular tourist destination for Russians and has reportedly seen around three million tourists this year, despite the war in Ukraine raging just next door.
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