Loud blasts heard near Russian military airbase in Crimea

Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov
Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov

On Tuesday, three local witnesses reported hearing loud explosions and seeing black smoke rising from the direction of a Russian military airbase in Novofedorivka on the annexed Crimean peninsula.

A plume of smoke was seen in videos supposedly caught at the scene, some of which were uploaded on social media and shot from adjacent tourist beaches. The footage just could not be verified right away.

Around 15:30 local time (12:30 GMT), at least 12 explosions of varying intensity were heard in a minute, according to two witnesses. Three in particular were really loud, causing smoke and flames.

Around 30 minutes later, one more blast, described by witnesses as the loudest of all, triggered two more plumes of smoke and dust. In the nearby town of Saky, sirens blared.

The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said in a post on his Telegram channel that he had gone to the area and that the “circumstances are being clarified”.

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An advisor to Aksyonov confirmed that explosions had occurred but declined to comment on the possible cause, Russian news agencies reported.

According to the regional health ministry, emergency services were deployed, TASS news agency reported.

On routes leading away from the coast, locals reported traffic congestion.

The Black Sea Fleet’s home port of Sevastopol had been leased by Russia from Kyiv for decades, but in 2014, Russia annexed the whole peninsula from Ukraine in a move that was not recognised by the most other countries.

Since President Vladimir Putin sent Russian armed forces into Ukraine on February 24, including those headquartered in the peninsula, Crimea has so far been spared the severe bombing and artillery fire that have occurred in other parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.