Loud explosions heard near Russian military airbase in Crimea

At least 12 explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military air base in Crimea. Russian Defense Ministry reports of no casualties.

First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)
First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Blasts rocked a Russian air base near seaside resorts in the annexed Crimean peninsula on Thursday, injuring five people according to local authorities in what Moscow attributed to detonations in ammunition stories.

Local witnesses told Reuters they heard at least 12 explosions around 3:20 p.m. local time (1220 GMT) from the Saky air base near Novofedorivka on Crimea's western coast. They described a final blast around 30 minutes later as the loudest.

Crimea has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine since Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian armed forces into Ukraine - including some based in the peninsula.

Russia's defense ministry said the "detonation of several aviation ammunition stores" had caused an explosion, Russian news agencies reported, but that there had been no injuries.

However, one person was killed by the blast, The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, posted a video on his Telegram channel from close to the base.

First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019. (credit: REUTERS)First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019. (credit: REUTERS)

No comment was immediately available from Ukraine.

He said a five-kilometer (three-mile) exclusion zone had been established around the site, and that local authorities were monitoring fires.

The defense ministry said there had not been any kind of attack and that no aviation equipment had been damaged. Moscow said further measures were being taken to establish the causes.

The Russian base in Crimea

The base is close to the seaside resorts of Novofedorivka and Saky, but the Russian tourism association ATOS said they did not appear to have been affected by the blasts. Nevertheless, locals reported congestion on roads leading away from the coast.

Numerous videos taken from beaches were posted on social media, showing huge plumes of smoke rising into the sky in the distance. The videos could not immediately be verified.

Novofedorivka and Saky are around 50 km (30 miles) north of the port of Sevastopol, home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which Moscow leased from Kyiv for decades before seizing and annexing the entire peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, in a move not recognized by most other countries.