The UkrainianAir Force said Wednesday that nineRussian fighter jets were destroyed in a massive explosion at a Crimean air base. Announced. The Ukrainian offensive represents a grave escalation of the war.
Russia denied Tuesday's explosion damaged its aircraft or attacked it.
While Ukrainian officials mocked Russia's explanation that munitions at Saki Air Base had ignited and blew it up, they did not go so far as to publicly claim responsibility for the blast, and that Moscow had emphasized the importance of the peninsula that had been annexed for eight years. in front.
READ MORE: Explosion at Russian air base sparks debate over whether it was a Ukrainian attack
Hours after the bombing in his nightly video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to retake the peninsula, stating, "This Russian war against Ukraine, and against all of free Europe, It must begin in Crimea and end in Crimea - its liberation."
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On Wednesday, Russian authorities tried to downplay the blast and all hotels and beaches on the peninsula, a popular tourist destination, The blast, which killed one person and injured 13 for many Russians who said they were unaffected, caused tourists to flee in panic as smoke billowed over nearby coastlines. They knocked out windows and caused other damage in several apartment buildings.
Russian fighters used Saki to make a hasty attack on areas of southern Ukraine. Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that a Ukrainian-launched long-range missile hit the base.
Moscow authorities The U.S. military will provoke massive reprisals, including strikes on "decision-making centers" in Kyiv, which have warned Ukraine of any attack on Crimea.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arrestovich is more outspoken than other officials. On Tuesday, the explosion was either caused by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon, which it cryptically said was the work of guerrillas operating in Crimea.
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Black Sea peninsula bases hanging in southern Ukraine are at least 200 kilometers from the nearest Ukrainian position — Out-of-range Missile supplied by the United States for use in the HIMARS system.
The Ukrainian military has successfully used these missiles, with a range of 80 kilometers, targeting ammunition and fuel depots, strategic bridges, and other important targets in Russian-occupied territories. . HIMARS can also launch long-range rockets with a range of up to 300 kilometers, as requested by Ukraine.
But US officials have so far refrained from providing them, fearing they could provoke Russia and escalate the conflict. It sparked speculation on social media that Ukraine may have finally acquired arms.
Read More: Europe should abolish Russian tourist visas, Finland and Estonia
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov It could have hit Russian air bases, could be adapted for use against ground targets, and could be launched from Ukrainian positions near Mykolaiv, northwest of Crimea. 67} Ukrainian forces may also have used Western-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which can also be used against ground targets and have a range of about 300 kilometers, he said.
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"Officially Kyiv is tight-lipped about it, but the military informally said it was a Ukrainian attack. I admit something," Zdanov said.
If Ukrainian forces were indeed responsible for the blast, it would be the first major attack on a Russian military installation in Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014. The Russian Black Sea Fleet, anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, blamed Ukrainian saboteurs using makeshift drones.
During the war, Russia reported numerous fires and explosions at munitions depots in its territory near the Ukrainian border, some of which it blamed on the Ukrainian strike. there is Ukrainian authorities have largely remained silent about the incident.
Meanwhile, Russian artillery shelling hit areas across Ukraine, including the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, between Tuesday night and Wednesday, killing 13 people and wounding 11, it said. Regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.
Leznichenko said Russian forces opened fire on the city of Marganets and nearby villages. The shelling damaged dozens of homes, two schools, and several administrative buildings.
"It was a terrible night," Reznichenko said. "It is very difficult to get bodies out of the rubble. We are facing a savage enemy who terrorizes our cities and villages every day."
Russian forces also continued to shell the nearby city of Nikopol across the Dnieper from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.
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Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the plant, Europe's largest
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