The Ukraine strikes at a Russian military base in annexed Crimea…..
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A series of explosions rocked a key Russian air base on the Kremlin-occupied Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday, sending up huge plumes of smoke, killing at least one person and sowing confusion among local officials about what exactly had occurred.
As Russian and occupation officials scrambled to determine the cause, raising the terrorist threat level in the area, a senior Ukrainian military official with knowledge of the situation said that Ukrainian forces were behind the blast at the Saki Air Base on the western coast of Crimea.
“This was an air base from which planes regularly took off for attacks against our forces in the southern theater,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters. The official would not disclose the type of weapon used in the attack, saying only that “a device exclusively of Ukrainian manufacture was used.”
A Ukrainian attack on Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula would represent a significant expansion of Ukraine’s offensive efforts, which until now have been largely limited to pushing Russian troops back from territories occupied after Feb. 24, when the invasion began.
It would also be an embarrassment for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who often speaks of Crimea, which he illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as if it were hallowed ground.
Ukraine possesses few weapons that can reach the peninsula, aside from aircraft that would risk being shot down immediately by Russia’s heavy air defenses in the region. The air base, which is near the city of Novofederivka, is nearly 200 miles from the nearest Ukrainian military position…
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- Russia said the explosions occurred at an ammunition storage site. The Defense Ministry told Russian reporters that no one was injured in the explosions and that aviation equipment was not damaged. However, Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, said that one person had died. Russian state media reported earlier that five were injured.
- Top Ukrainian officials stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack but said that Russian troops must be expelled from Crimea. The peninsula is “not a military base for terrorists,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. In an apparent reference to Tuesday’s strike, he added: “It is just the beginning.” Later, in an interview with an independent Russian outlet, Podolyak sought to distance Ukrainian forces from the carnage, saying it was possible anti-Russian partisans were responsible. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the explosions were “another reminder of who Crimea belongs to. Because it is Ukraine.”
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his evening address, said: “Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up.” Zelensky said Russian occupying forces in Crimea are a threat to all of Europe and that the Ukrainian government is working toward the “liberation of Crimea.” He did not say whether Ukraine had carried out Tuesday’s attack.
- If conducted by Ukraine the strike would be a dramatic escalation in the nearly 6-month-old war. It would demonstrate Ukrainian forces’ ability to hit Russia far from front lines, deep inside territory where Russian tourists are so comfortable with their security that they lounge near the base on Black Sea beaches.
- Between 70,000 and 80,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the conflict, Colin Kahl, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a briefing Monday. The figure is “pretty remarkable,” he said, “considering that the Russians have achieved none of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s objectives at the beginning of the war.
- Ukrainian troops are “moving very successfully” toward Izyum in the northeast, putting further pressure on Russian troops, Ukrainian presidential adviser OleksiyArestovych said in a YouTube video. The city of 50,000 is seen as a gateway to the eastern Donbas region, most of which is held by pro-Russian forces.
- Russia’s assaults on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut have been its most successful axis in the Donbas region in the past 30 days, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said, although it noted that Russian troops have gained only 10 kilometers (six miles) in that time. “In other Donbas sectors where Russia was attempting to break through, its forces have not gained more than 3km [1.8 miles] during this 30 day period; almost certainly significantly less than planned.”
- In the Kharkiv region, at least a dozen settlements came under Russian artillery, tank and aircraft fire, the Ukrainian military said in its latest update. But Ukrainian forces claimed to have captured the town of Dovhenke. Several villages in the northern Sumy region also came under intense Russian fire.
- The Pentagon will send Ukraine an additional $1 billion in military assistance, including tens of thousands more munitions and explosives — the largest such package since Russia launched its invasion in February….
The U.S. State Department will pay $89 million to help rid Ukraine of dangerous landmines hidden by retreating Russian troops, a State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
Russian forces have reportedly booby trapped everything from cars to washing machines to dead bodies with explosives designed to seriously injure or kill civilians who discover them. In May, Russian troops placed explosives in a 10-year-old girl’s piano in Bucha, showing that they are deliberately targeting civilians, the official said.
The $89 million will pay for 100 demining teams to work in Ukraine for the next year, the official said. It will also fund training and equipment for Ukrainian teams, but will not address concerns about sea mines in the Black Sea.
No American government personnel will be on the ground in Ukraine, the official said. The money will be given to non-governmental organizations to field the demining teams and to contractors who can train and equip locals, not directly to the Ukrainian government….