While the flare-up in Crimea has lent a new dimension to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Defence Ministry in Moscow has blamed saboteurs for explosions at a military warehouse in northern Crimea that forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 people. The Eastern Question has flared up again, much as it did in the late 19th century. Tuesday’s explosions rocked an ammunition storage facility near the village of Mayskoye and disrupted train services and power supplies. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper also reported on Tuesday on another possible act of sabotage in Crimea, quoting witnesses as saying that plumes of smoke could be seen over a Russian military airbase on the peninsula in Gvardeyskoye. Both incidents are an echo of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The incidents follow a series of explosions last week at a Russian-operated airbase in Crimea which Ukrainian officials had hinted were part of some kind of special operation but which Moscow said at the time was an accident.
State-owned news agency TASS cited the Russian Defence ministry as saying that civilian infrastructure had been damaged a result of the sabotage ~ a rare admission that armed groups loyal to Ukraine are inflicting losses on military logistics and supply lines inside Russian-annexed Crimea. Moscow’s senior representative in the region, Sergei Aksyonov, confirmed that two people were wounded in the explosions at the ammunition depot, railway traffic halted, and thousands of people evacuated from nearby villages. Aksyonov did not provide a cause for the latest blasts in Crimea, a region that Moscow uses as a supply line for its war in Ukraine. Last week, blasts at a military airbase on Crimea’s western coast caused extensive damage and destroyed several Russian war planes. Moscow called that an accident, though simultaneous blasts left craters visible from the skies.
In the latest explosions, an electricity substation also caught fire near the town of Dzhankoi, according to footage on Russian state TV. It showed large explosions on the horizon which authorities said came from the ammunition detonations. Ukraine has not officially confirmed or denied responsibility for the explosions in Crimea, although its officials have openly cheered incidents in a territory that, until last week, appeared safe in Moscow’s grip and beyond the range of Ukrainian attacks. Two senior Ukrainian officials took to Twitter to exult in the explosions. However, one of them, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, hinted at possible Ukrainian involvement while stopping short of confirming such a role.
The apparent use of covert forces behind enemy lines underscored what they call the “inventiveness” of Ukraine’s forces. Ever since the war began on 23 February, they have adopted unconventional tactics in the hope of leveling the playing field while trying to repel attacks from a much larger and better equipped Russian military.