Mystery solved? A series of “devastating” explosions last week at a Russian air base far behind the lines in Crimea had observers wondering exactly what happened. A new set of explosions that took out an ammunition depot has left no doubt.
Ukraine claims that they have begun a campaign to “demilitarize” occupied Crimea — or at least they want the Russians to worry about it:
💥 Russian military unit is on fire and an ammunition depot explodes near Dzhankoi, #Crimea, – Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people #StandWithUkraine #UkraineRussiaWar #russiaisaterrorisstate pic.twitter.com/HbJ9NTNAPE
— UATV English (@UATV_en) August 16, 2022
A huge explosion rocked a Russian ammunition depot on the occupied Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday morning, delivering another embarrassing blow to Moscow’s forces a week after blasts at a Russian air base in the same region destroyed several fighter jets.
A senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said that an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the explosion, which sent up a huge fireball. Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the explosion was an “act of sabotage,” according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
The apparent attacks, which used covert forces behind enemy lines, underscore the inventiveness of Ukraine’s forces. Since the war began, they have adopted unconventional tactics in the hopes of leveling the playing field while trying to repel attacks from a much larger and better equipped Russian military. …
And although he did not confirm Ukraine’s involvement, Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office in Ukraine, said on the Telegram messaging app that the country’s armed forces would continue the “demilitarization” of Crimea and other captured territories until they achieved “the complete deoccupation of Ukrainian territories.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, only barely contained his glee on Twitter over the operation:
Morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action.
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) August 16, 2022
Another Ukrainian replied with purported footage of the attack in progress this morning:
— Santi Puig🇪🇺Viladomiu (@santipuigvila) August 16, 2022
The secondary explosions shown here are pretty spectacular. If this footage is legit, the Russians lost a lot of ammunition in this attack.
How serious are the Ukrainians about opening up an offense to retake Crimea? Strategically and politically it would be invaluable, but for the last few months they have been fighting with everything they have just to keep the Russians from advancing in the east and south, and not always successfully. Ukraine has recently begun counteroffensives near Kherson and other positions in or around the Donbas, but that’s been a slog — so far, anyway. Attacks like these in Crimea using special ops and infiltration teams may be intended less as a new offensive and perhaps more as a distraction that will force Russia to stretch out its rapidly diminishing resources to defend the Crimean peninsula it seized eight years ago.
On the other hand, Zelensky has become a lot more vocal lately about kicking Russia out of Crimea. Allahpundit noted the escalation on that point six days ago, which signaled a new determination by Ukraine to settle all matters with Vladimir Putin through the clash of arms Putin initiated. In February, Putin might have gotten the Donbas and a concession on Crimea through the threat of war, but those days have clearly passed. Zelensky now seems confident enough to press the whole front, or at least threaten to do so, given how poorly the Russian military has performed.
One last point may be in play here, too. After it became clear in early March that Putin couldn’t take Kyiv and force a quick victory, military analysts projected that Putin had until the end of September or early October before he exhausted his resources and ability to hold ground outside of Russia. The introduction of the hyper-accurate HIMARS artillery may have accelerated that timeline, and so-called “sabotage” campaigns in Crimea and elsewhere may also speed up that process. Zelensky may see a point approaching where the Russian lines have to crack and start running back for the border — and perhaps he sees that better than anyone.