For the second time this month, heavy explosions rocked Russia’s annexed Crimea on Tuesday. In the morning, near the village of Maiskoye, an ammunition depot in a camp of Russian troops exploded. According to official information, two people were injured. The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, ordered a five-kilometer exclusion zone and the evacuation of 2,000 people.
Unlike the explosions at the Saki airbase earlier this month, the Russian Defense Ministry admitted after a moment’s hesitation that Maiskoye was an act of sabotage. The railway line from Simferopol to the north, an important supply line for the Russian troops in southern Ukraine, had to be interrupted.
After the explosions at the Saki airbase on August 9, officials of Russia and Ukraine still agreed. Both sides said at the time that it was not an attack by Ukrainian forces. The 43rd Russian Naval Aviation Regiment is stationed in Saki and is regularly deployed over southern Ukraine. It apparently lost nine aircraft that day. A Ukrainian drone had already landed in Crimea at the end of July.
The use of missiles seemed unlikely at the time, although later released satellite images of the devastation at the airfield suggested just that. But Saki is beyond the reach of the weapon systems that Ukraine officially possesses. The Russian Defense Ministry said fire safety regulations had not been complied with at the air force base. But Western media, citing military officials in Kyiv who remain anonymous, quoted that Ukrainian special units, so-called Speznasi, were deployed in Saki.
Recently there have also been repeated reports of partisan actions in the Russian-occupied areas of southern Ukraine. Recently there was an explosion at the headquarters of the Kremlin party United Russia. In Kherson, occupation police cars were attacked and two police officers were killed. In early August, Nova Kakhovka’s deputy chief of administration, appointed by Russia, was seriously injured near his home.
The Ukrainian leadership makes no secret of the fact that it currently sees the greatest opportunities for a counteroffensive against the Russian armed forces, which still have superior weapons technology, in the south of the country. The city of Cherson on the Dnieper near the Crimean peninsula was the first major Ukrainian city that the attackers from Crimea were able to capture in the spring. There they installed an administration of collaborators and Russian governors who were flown in to organize the union with Russia.
Ukraine has been attacking bridges across the Dnieper and Russian bases in the Kherson region with artillery and air force for some time now. According to the Ukrainian secret service, important Russian supply lines such as the Antonov Bridge in Cherson have been destroyed, and a Russian command staff is said to have already withdrawn from the city. Attacks on bases in nearby Crimea would be a logical step in preparations for a counteroffensive, military experts say.
The Presidential Administration of Ukraine reacted to the explosions in Maiskoye on Tuesday on social networks. Deputy chief Mykhailo Podoljak tweeted that Crimea is not a place for tourism, “these are exploding camps and deadly danger”. His boss Andriy Yermak was much clearer. He wrote that demilitarization was underway. The destruction of Russian arms caches will continue until the complete reconquest of Ukrainian territory.
President Volodymyr Zelenskij has now de facto proclaimed this recapture as one of Ukraine’s war goals. On Tuesday he signed Ukas number 579 to “end the occupation of Crimea, re-integration and the restoration of the territorial unity of Ukraine”, as the cumbersomely worded order reads. Ermak is to put together a “consultant council” within a month, which will include military and administrative experts.
President Vladimir Putin opened the Armiya-2022 arms show in the Patriot Park near Moscow. In his speech, he warmly offered allies and partners “the most advanced weapons systems — from firearms to armored vehicles and artillery, to military aircraft and drones,” according to the manuscript circulated by the Presidential Administration. And he added: “Virtually all of them have been used in real combat operations.”
At the same time, Putin reiterated that many of the Russian weapons under development are “years, possibly decades ahead” of Western technology. We are talking about “high-precision weapons, robotics and systems based on new physical principles”. The Moscow exhibition would provide convincing evidence of this.
On this occasion, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s war aim: the Donbass should be taken completely. The Russian army is fulfilling its tasks in the “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” “step by step” – a formulation that indicates that Putin is preparing his people for a long war.