Highlights

  • Military depot hit in Russia-annexed Crimea
  • More than 3,000 people forced to evacuate
  • Second such attack in a week's span

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Blasts, fire hits military depot in Russian-annexed Crimea

As with last week's explosions, they led to speculation that Ukrainian forces may have staged an attack on the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014.

Massive explosions and fires hit a military depot in Russia-annexed Crimea on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people, the second time in recent days that the Ukraine war's focus has turned to the contested peninsula.

Russia blamed the blasts at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye on an “act of sabotage” without naming the perpetrators.

As with last week's explosions, they led to speculation that Ukrainian forces may have staged an attack on the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014.

Separately, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant quoted local residents as saying that plumes of black smoke also rose over an air base in Crimea's Gvardeyskoye.

Ukraine has stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for any of the fires or explosions, including last week's at another air base that destroyed nine Russian planes.

If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for any of the explosions, they would represent a significant escalation in the war.

Videos posted on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising over raging flames in Mayskoye, and a series of explosions could be heard in the background.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the fires at the depot caused damage to a power plant, power lines, rail tracks and some apartment buildings. It said in a statement that “there were no serious injuries”.

Earlier, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reported a fire a transformer substation after “a loud thump sound” in what appeared to be a result of the blasts at the depot.

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Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for Russia and Ukraine. The Kremlin's demand that Kyiv recognise the peninsula as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.

The district where the blasts happened, Dzhankoi, is in the north of the peninsula, about 50 kilometres from the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine.

Kyiv has recently mounted a series of attacks on various sites in the region, targeting supply routes for the Russian military there and ammunition depots.

Last week's explosions at Saki air base sent sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon.

Ukrainian officials emphasised on Tuesday that Crimea — which is a popular destination for Russian tourists — would not be spared the ravages of war experienced throughout Ukraine.

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