Explosions, drone strikes rock Russian-held areas far from Ukraine warfront

Russia reported new Ukrainian drone strikes on Friday, after explosions erupted near military bases in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine. This photo taken on August 16, 2022 shows smoke rising from an ammunition depot in the town of Mayskoye, Crimea.

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Russia reported new Ukrainian drone strikes on Friday night, a day after explosions erupted near military bases in Russian- and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, apparent signs of Kyiv’s growing ability to attack Moscow assets away from the front lines.

The latest incidents followed large explosions last week at an air base in Crimea, annexed by Russia. In a new assessment, a Western official said the incident had wiped out half of Russia’s Black Sea naval aviation force at a stroke.

Russia’s RIA and Tass news agencies, citing a local official in Crimea, said it appeared Russian anti-aircraft forces had been in action near the western Crimean port of Yevpatoriya on Friday night. A video posted by a Russian website showed what appeared to be a surface-to-air missile hitting a target. Reuters could not immediately confirm the veracity of the video.

Tass quoted a local official as saying that Russian anti-aircraft forces shot down six Ukrainian drones sent to attack the town of Nova Kakhovka, east of the city of Kherson. Ukraine says retaking Kherson is one of its top priorities.

Separately, an official in Crimea said defenses had shot down an unspecified number of drones over the city of Sevastopol.

“The Ukrainian armed forces invited the Russians for a magical evening,” said Seriy Khlan, a member of the Kherson regional council dissolved by the Russian occupation forces.

The night before, multiple explosions had been reported in Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, including near Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, as well as in Kerch, near a massive bridge to Russia.

Inside Russia, two villages were evacuated after explosions at an ammunition depot in Belgorod province, more than 100 km (60 miles) from territory controlled by Ukrainian forces.

Kyiv shy about incidents in Crimea

Kyiv has been withholding official comment on incidents in Crimea or inside Russia, while hinting that it is behind them using long-range weapons or sabotage.

A Western official on Friday indicated at least some of the incidents were Ukrainian attacks, saying Kyiv was consistently achieving “kinetic effects” far behind Russia’s lines.

Huge explosions on August 9 at Russia’s Saky airbase on the Crimean coast put more than half of the Black Sea Fleet’s fighter jets out of action, the official said, in what would be one of the attacks. costliest of the war.

Russia has denied the planes were damaged in what it called an accident, although satellite images showed at least eight fighter jets burned and several huge craters.

Moscow sacked the head of the Black Sea Fleet this week.

Ukraine hopes that its apparent newfound ability to attack Russian targets behind the front line could turn the tide of the conflict, disrupting the supply lines Moscow needs to support its occupation.

A senior US defense official said Friday that US President Joe BidenThe Ukrainian administration was preparing another security assistance package for Ukraine valued at $775 million and containing surveillance drones and, for the first time, mine-resistant vehicles.

Since last month, Ukraine has been deploying Western-supplied rockets to strike behind Russian lines. Some explosions reported in Crimea and Belgorod were beyond the range of munitions that Western countries have acknowledged sending so far.

A senior Ukrainian official said that around half of the incidents in Crimea were Ukrainian attacks of some kind and the other half were accidents caused by poor operations by Russia.

He stressed that the saboteurs carried out the strikes rather than the long-range weapons, though he did not say whether Kyiv now has ATACMS, a longer-range version of the US HIMARS rockets that it began using in June.

The official, who declined to be identified, said Ukraine expected its strikes to have a greater impact in reducing the power of Russian artillery, but Moscow was adapting.

nuclear plant concern

Ukraine’s nuclear power operator said on Friday it suspected Moscow was planning to switch the Zaporizhzhia plant to Russia’s power grid, a complex operation that Kyiv said could cause disaster.

The power plant is in the hands of Russian troops on the shore of a reservoir.

Ukrainian forces control the opposite bank.

Moscow has rejected international calls to demilitarize the plant, and Putin on Friday renewed his accusation that Kyiv was bombing it in a phone call with the French president. immanuel macronaccording to the Kremlin reading.

Macron’s office said Putin had accepted a mission to Zaporizhzhia from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced to flee since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, saying it was aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and protecting Russian-speakers in what Putin called historic Russian land.

Ukraine and Western countries see it as a war of conquest aimed at destroying Ukraine’s national identity.

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