For the second time last week, a Russian military base in Crimea was rocked by explosions. An ammunition depot in the village of Mayskoye, in the Dzhankoi district, was the scene of explosions which caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said the fire started at a “temporary ammunition storage site of one of the military units”.
“As a result of the fire, the stored munitions exploded,” the ministry said, adding that the cause of the fire was still unknown. A nearby electrical substation also caught fire. The ministry added that there were no serious casualties. However, a Russian-appointed official in the region, Sergei Aksyonov, said two people were injured.
“One man was injured by shrapnel and another was crushed by a wall. Their lives are not in danger, fortunately,” he said. Train service in the area had also been disrupted.
“After consultation with the management of the Crimean Railway, the decision was made to stop passenger trains coming from the mainland at Vladislavovka station,” Aksyonov wrote on the Telegram channel app.
“There, passengers will be equipped with buses to take them to the nearest bus stations,” he added.
A video captured by a freelancer showed massive fireballs erupting over a wide swath of territory, with secondary projectiles flying in all directions.
Ukraine: the fire was not an accident
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, called the fire “demilitarization in action”, hinting it was no accident.
“The morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: the Crimea of the normal (sic) country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
“Russian-occupied Crimea is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” he added in his message. Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tartar chief, said the blast was a “thump that could be heard far in the steppe”.
A senior Ukrainian official speaking on condition of anonymity was quoted by The New York Times saying the explosions were the result of a Ukrainian special forces unit operating far behind the front lines.
The explosion at the ammunition depot follows a series of explosions at a Russian airbase in Saki, Crimea, last week, where at least eight Su-24 and Su-30 planes were reportedly destroyed and others damaged . Since the introduction of US-made HIMARS systems in June, Ukrainian forces have targeted Russian munitions dumps, destroying 50 so far.
The UK Ministry of Defence, in its Daily Intelligence Assessment, said the explosions at Saki Air Base had significantly degraded the aeronautical capabilities of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. This attack was also characterized by a Ukrainian official as an attack carried out by members of the special forces, working in conjunction with local partisans.
Wagner Group HQ hit by missile strike
Using intelligence gathered from Russian journalists, Ukrainian forces launched a precision missile strike that destroyed the headquarters of the Wagner Group in eastern Ukraine. The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company, or PMC, which operates as a branch of the Russian military. They have been accused of war crimes wherever they have operated, particularly in Syria and several countries in Africa.
On July 29, the Ukrainian military accused Wagner of starting a fire at a POW compound that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners captured during the Siege of Mariupol. There have been numerous accusations that Mariupol survivors were tortured.
Governor of Lugansk Serihy Haidai wrote on the Telegram channel application that the Ukrainian army “hit an enemy HQ, the location of which was established thanks to a Russian journalist”.
“This time the successful strike destroyed Wagner PMC HQ in Popasna yesterday,” he said, adding that “the death toll is being clarified.”
Sergei Sreda, a pro-Russian journalist, previously posted a since-deleted photo online showing Wagner’s HQ, with a road sign in the background. The sign identified the address as Mironovskaya 12, Popasna, according to an article in the Ukrainian daily Ukraine Pravda.
Wagner has long been linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin – nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because Russian President Vladimir Putin and the armed forces have long used his catering business. Another Russian military blogger wrote on the Telegram app: “A strike was carried out on one of the Wagner PMC sites in Popasna. Donbass sources confirm this. Probably “HIMARS”. Ukrainian sources report the death of Prigozhin – we do not confirm this.
Steve Balestrieri is a national security columnist from 1945. He served as a non-commissioned officer and warrant officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces, primarily in the 7th SFG. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news agencies, he covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work has been regularly featured in the Massachusetts Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers.