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Crimea 'Sabotage' Shows Russia's Woes  08/17 06:08

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- A spate of explosions and a fire that was still 
burning Wednesday have turned Russian-annexed Crimea from a secure base for the 
further invasion of Ukraine into the latest flashpoint highlighting Moscow's 
challenges ahead in a war that is nearing the half-year mark.

   A statement from British defense intelligence said that "Russian commanders 
will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in 
security across Crimea, which functions as rear base area for the occupation."

   Even Russia itself acknowledged it was an "act of sabotage" that caused 
Tuesday's explosions and fires that ripped through an ammunition depot near 
Dzhankoi in once-secure Crimea, leading to chaotic scenes when around 3,000 
people had to be evacuated.

   As a vivid reminder of Russia's vulnerability in Crimea, detonations at the 
depot near Dzhankoi were still continuing Wednesday. Crimea's regional leader, 
Sergei Aksyonov, said that authorities were engaging a fire helicopter to try 
and extinguish them. He said that a search for perpetrators of the attack was 
underway.

   A week earlier, Russia's military in Crimea already came under pressure when 
Ukraine said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed following explosions. At the 
time, Moscow still offered the possibility of a wayward cigarette butt as the 
cause.

   No such explanations would suffice anymore as the war, which had long 
centered on brutal fighting in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, has now given 
southern Crimea increasing importance.

   Worsening the outlook in Crimea was a report by the Kommersant business 
paper, that explosions had also taken place near Gvardeyskoye in the center of 
the peninsula. By Wednesday, there still was no comment from the Russian 
authorities.

   The British intelligence report said Gvardeyskoye and Dzhankoi "are home to 
two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea."

   Ukraine has stopped short of claiming responsibility for any of the blasts, 
including those at another Crimean air base last week. Russia seized the 
Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has used it to launch attacks against Ukraine in 
the war that began on Feb. 24.

   If Ukrainian forces were behind the explosions, that would represent a 
significant escalation in the war. Such attacks could also indicate that 
Ukrainian operatives are able to penetrate deeply into Russian-occupied 
territory.

   On the eastern front, the stalemate between both sides continued, with the 
brutality of the shelling causing ever more death and destruction.

   In the Donetsk region at the forefront of the Russian offensive, two 
civilians were killed and seven others were wounded by recent Russian shelling 
of several towns and villages.

   Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers fired cruise missiles at the Odesa region 
overnight, leaving four people injured, according to Odesa regional 
administration spokesman Oleh Bratchuk.

   In the southern city of Mykolaiv, two Russian missiles damaged a university 
building early Wednesday but injured no one.

   The Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv and various parts of the Kharkiv 
region overnight, damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure 
but inflicting no casualties.

   On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to travel to 
Ukraine for a meeting in the western city of Lviv with Zelenskyy and Turkish 
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are expected to discuss the grain 
shipments and a possible fact-finding mission to the Russian-controlled 
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia and Ukraine have accused each 
other of shelling.

 
 
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