Ukraine’s top military chief has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Russian airbases on the occupied peninsula of Crimea, including one that caused devastation at the Saky military facility last month.
In an article co-authored by lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published on state news agency Ukrinform on Wednesday, Valerii Zaluzhny, the Ukrainian army’s commander-in-chief, said the attacks had been carried out by missiles or rockets, without elaborating.
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Ukraine has until now only hinted at its involvement in the Crimea blasts, with one senior official anonymously telling the news agency Reuters that the airbase explosions were the work of Ukrainian saboteurs on the ground.
Writing about Ukraine’s response to what the op-ed said was Moscow’s strategy of “distancing” the war from Russian citizens, Zaluzhnyi and Zaborodskyi wrote of “the successful efforts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to physically transfer hostilities to … Crimea.
“We are talking about a series of successful rocket strikes against the enemy’s Crimean air bases, first of all, the Saky airfield,” the article said.
A footnote clarified that the Saky attack was a “combined strike” that took place on August 9 and took 10 Russian warplanes “out of action”.
The Russian defence ministry said at the time that aviation munitions had been detonated at the base through negligence.
Officials in Crimea said one person was killed in the blast and several others wounded.
Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the claims.
If the Saky base was hit by Ukrainian forces, it would mark the first known significant attack on a Russian military site in occupied Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol was targeted by a small-scale explosion in July in an attack that was blamed on Ukrainian saboteurs.
Russia has long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including attacks on “decision-making centres” in Kyiv.
The Saky base has been used by Russian warplanes to attack areas in Ukraine’s south.
Following the blasts at the Saky base, several explosions shook the village of Mayskoye in Crimea on August 16 at a suspected Russian ammunition depot. The Ukrainian military posted spectacular video of explosions. Russia said the blasts were “a result of sabotage” and did not assign blame.
Crimea borders the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which is occupied by Russian forces. Ukraine last week announced Kharkiv as the focus of a push to retake territory.