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Satellite images show devastation at Russian air base in Crimea

Satellite pictures show devastation at a Russian air base in Crimea, hit days earlier in an attack that suggests Kyiv may have obtained new long-range strike capability.

Pictures released by independent satellite firm Planet Labs on Thursday show three near-identical craters that precisely struck buildings at Russia’s Saki air base.

The base, on the south-west coast of Crimea, had suffered extensive fire damage with the burnt-out husks of at least eight destroyed warplanes clearly visible.

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.

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 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 US ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter, linking to an image of the devastation at the Russian base.

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

Exactly how the attack was carried out remains a mystery.

Some Ukrainian officials have been quoted suggesting it may have been sabotage by infiltrators.

But the near-identical impact craters and simultaneous explosions appear to indicate it was hit by a volley of new long-range weapons, capable of evading Russian defences.

The base is well beyond the range of advanced rockets that Western countries acknowledge sending to Ukraine so far, but within the range of more powerful versions that Kyiv has sought.

Ukraine also has its own surface-to-ship missiles that could theoretically be used to hit targets on land.

Although there have been few major advances on either side in recent weeks intense skirmishes are still under way.

Ukraine reported Russian bombardments along the entire front line, from the area around Kharkiv in the north-east, across eastern Donetsk province, and on the banks of the wide Dnipro River in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and adjacent provinces.

Dnipropetrovsk regional governor Valentyn Reznychenko said three people were killed and seven wounded by shelling in Nikopol on the right bank of the Dnipro, which was hit by 120 Grad rockets.


“The enemy is concentrating its efforts on establishing full control over the territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions,” Ukraine’s General Staff said in an early Thursday report, citing more than 60 settlements and military targets.


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