Strategic hits in Crimea are a heavy blow to the enemy’s psyche and supply lines


Ukrainian special forces were blamed for a series of explosions behind Russian lines in occupied Crimea yesterday.

One Ukrainian official, who asked not to be named, was the work of an elite military unit.

Footage shared on social media showed a huge fireball at the ammunition depot and later in the day plumes of smoke were seen from a Russian military airfield near Gvardeyskoye in central Crimea.

Western analysts called the blasts a “massive blow to Russian logistics” as the sites were linked by a railway that Moscow used to resupply its forces in southern Ukraine.

Kyiv has hoped to change the dynamics of the war by relegating Russia to an area it considers safe enough to encourage “patriotic” tourism.

Earlier this month, the Kremlin was forced to move its ammunition depots deeper into Crimea after Ukraine used a US-made Himars missile system to destroy a 40-car train carrying troops and weapons when it was in southern Crimea Kherson region arrived.

The depot in the village of Maiske targeted yesterday was beyond the 80km range of the Himars system and Russia likely considered it a safe place for its arms cache, experts said.

Moscow’s Defense Ministry claimed the fire at its military camp was the result of an “act of sabotage”.

Russian state media reported that 10 km of a railway line and two nearby train stations – Azovske and Rozizd – were also damaged after the blast.

The only direct rail line from Russia to Crimea passes through Azovshe, which was probably used as a loading point by Russian forces.

Chris Owen, a military expert, said: “It is therefore possible that this blast severed one of Russia’s main routes to Crimea and southern Ukraine. It will be especially difficult to repair if duds are scattered over a wide area.”

Without vital rail links, Russian forces face a four-hour drive from their Maiske base to the city of Kherson – a key target for the expected Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Kyiv has stopped publicly claiming responsibility for the blasts, but the apparent crackdowns are likely to fuel concerns about Russia’s ability to defend Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.

The attack came a week after Moscow’s Saki Air Force Base was devastated by a series of explosions that destroyed at least a dozen fighter jets.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said yesterday’s attack on the Russian military base was “demilitarization in action”.

“A reminder: Crimea as a normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Russian-occupied Crimea is about warehouses, explosions and a high risk of death for intruders and thieves,” he tweeted the explosions.

Andriy Yermak, Mr. Zelenskyi’s chief of staff, also hinted at Ukrainian involvement without providing concrete confirmation. “Armed Forces will continue until complete deoccupation of Ukrainian territories… Crimea is Ukraine,” he wrote on messaging app Telegram.

Sergei Aksyonov, a top Russian official in Crimea, said about 2,000 residents had to flee the village near the munitions dump, where two people were injured.

With Ukrainian officials pointing out special forces operating deep behind enemy lines, the attacks demonstrate the unconventional tactics Kyiv is employing to level the playing field against Russia.

James Rushton, a military analyst, said: “It is a continuation of Ukraine’s ongoing strategy to attack Russian logistics centers. It’s also clear that there’s a psychological element too – they’re beating the Russians in areas they previously thought were safe.”

Russian media sources reported that sabotage was the likely cause of the explosions at Gvardeyskoye airbase, which is home to Su-24M bomber jets and Su-25SM fighter jets.

It is believed that small drones may have been used in both attacks.

In what appeared to be retaliation for the Crimea attacks, Russia yesterday fired rockets from its weapons caches in Belarus into the Zhytomyr region of northern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Brave Commander ship has left Ukraine’s Pivdennyi port, transporting the first shipment of humanitarian food aid from Ukraine to Africa since the Russian invasion.

The ship carrying 23,000 tons of wheat went to Djibouti with supplies for consumers in Ethiopia. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Strategic hits in Crimea are a heavy blow to the enemy’s psyche and supply lines

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