Russia’s Defence Ministry said a fire had broken out after several explosions at a temporary ammunition storage facility in the Dzhankoi at around 6.15am local time on Tuesday. Flames several feet high and thick grey smoke was seen shooting into the sky above the weapons unit near the village of Maiske in the early hours of this morning. Two people were injured as a result of the explosions to the north of the Russian-annexed Crimea, according to reports from Russian state media.
Sergei Aksyonov, Russia’s top official in Crimea, said around 3,000 people living close to the scene of the attack were evacuated from their homes.
But Sky News has reported it understands the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian special forces operating inside the territory.
Sky News correspondent in Odesa, Alistair Bunkall, said: “I think what is clear is there is at least one – if not two – Ukrainian special forces groups operating with Ukraine sympathisers in Crimea to disrupt Russian operations.”
In Tuesday’s incident, an electricity substation also caught fire near the town of Dzhankoi, according to footage on Russian state TV.
This showed explosions on the horizon which authorities said came from the ammunition detonations.
Seven passenger trains had been delayed and that rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea had been suspended, according to a report from Russia’s RIA news agency.
That could potentially impact its ability to support troops in Ukraine with military hardware.
Ukraine is yet to officially confirm or deny responsibility for explosions in Crimea.
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Twitter account “ChrisO_wiki”, whose bio says they are an independent military historian, wrote on a lengthy thread: “Depending on exactly where the seat of the explosion is, this could have a lot of strategic significance.
“The only direct railway line from Russia to Crimea runs through [Mayskoye].
“It’s therefore possible this explosion has severed one of Russia’s main routes into Crimea and southern Ukraine.
“It will be particularly difficult to fix if it’s scattered unexploded ordnance over a wide area.
“Following the earlier HIMARS attack on a Russian ammunition train at Brylivka on the line from Dzhankoi to Kherson, I suggested that the Russians would likely seek to relocate their ammunition dumps and truck-train interchange points to places outside of HIMARS range…
“So the dump at [Mayskoye] may represent ammunition that the Russians were hoping was now out of the Ukrainians’ reach.”
The Twitter user added: “It’s not impossible that the ammunition explosion in [Mayskoye] was an accident – Russia has expended vast amounts of ammunition and is now likely relying on older stocks, which tend to be less stable.
“Particularly with reliance on manual labour, accidents are quite possible.
“But there’s also reportedly been an explosion at a transformer station in Dzhankoi.
“It doesn’t look like a coincidence that both have happened on the same morning.
“Could this represent a coordinated Ukrainian attack, perhaps using sabotage, to paralyse Russian rail transport in Crimea?”