Satellite image of Russian air base in Crimea after blasts

Russian air base in Crimea wreckage

Russian air base in Crimea was destroyed in an attack captured on satellite images that were made public on Thursday, raising the possibility that Kyiv may have acquired new long-range strike capabilities that might alter the course of the war.

Buildings at Russia’s Saki air base were clearly hit with precision in three of the images obtained by independent satellite company Planet Labs. The burnt-out husks of at least eight wrecked warplanes were clearly visible at the facility, which was severely damaged by fire and was located on the Crimean peninsula’s southwest coast.

Russia has denied aircraft were damaged and said explosions seen at the base on Tuesday were accidental.

Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack or said exactly how it was carried out.

“Officially, we are not confirming or denying anything; there are numerous scenarios for what might have happened… bearing in mind that there were several epicentres of explosions at exactly the same time,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters in a message.

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Western military experts said the scale of the damage and the apparent precision of the strike suggested a powerful new capability with potentially important implications.

Russia, which seized and annexed Crimea in 2014, uses the peninsula as the base for its Black Sea fleet and as the main supply route for its invasion forces occupying southern Ukraine, where Kyiv is planning a counter-offensive in coming weeks.

“I’m not an intel analyst, but it doesn’t look good,” Mark Hertling, a former commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter, linking to an image of the devastation at the Russian base.

“I am. It’s very good,” tweeted back his fellow retired four-star American general, Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency.

According to the think tank Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian officials are framing the attack on Crimea as “the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, suggesting that the Ukrainian military expects intense fighting in August and September that could decide the outcome of the next phase of the war.”

The attack’s precise methodology is still a mystery. According to several Ukrainian authorities who have been mentioned, it may have been infiltrators sabotaging the operation.

However, the almost similar impact craters and concomitant explosions seem to suggest that it was struck by a volley of weapons that could get through Russian defenses.