Russian-backed authorities in occupied Crimea awoke to a shitstorm on Tuesday as explosions rang out first at an arms depot and then reportedly at an air base, sparking frantic explanations from Russian authorities who’ve traditionally tried to play down such setbacks.
Ukrainian authorities went all in on mocking the aftermath of what they cryptically referred to as “demilitarization,” the latest blow to Russian forces on territory they perhaps erroneously believed was fully under their control.
The first blasts rocked an arms depot near the town of Dzhankoi, where an electricity substation also went up in smoke. While Russia’s Defense Ministry initially claimed a “fire” on the territory of the arms depot was to blame for the explosions, they later revised their version of events, alleging “sabotage.”
“Damage was caused to a number of civilian facilities, among them power lines, a power station, a railway track, as well as a number of residential buildings,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed leader of the peninsula, said about 2,000 people were evacuated and railway traffic was disrupted.
“At the moment detonations are continuing,” Aksyonov said as the ammo continued to pop off.
Shortly after those blasts, residents in Simferopol reported several explosions at an air base that sent black plumes of smoke into the sky. Russian-backed authorities there have been mum on what happened to the air base, but Kommersant, citing anonymous law enforcement and military officials, reported that investigators were looking into whether drones had been used to strike the air base.
Russian state media reported that a state of emergency declared last week after explosions destroyed several Russian fighter jets has now been expanded.
Ukrainian authorities did not directly claim responsibility for the chaos throughout the occupied peninsula, but an unnamed senior Ukrainian official cited by The New York Times said an elite Ukrainian military unit was behind the blasts in Dzhankoi, working covertly behind enemy lines.
The Ukrainian government also did not hold back in expressing delight at Russian military equipment going up in flames.
“Operation ‘demilitarization’ in the precise style of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue until the complete de-occupation of Ukrainian territories. Our warriors are the best sponsors of a good mood. Crimea is Ukraine,” Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, wrote on Telegram.
Yuri Ignat, the spokesman of the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, quipped at a Tuesday briefing that the incident in Dzhankoi made clear that “the enemy does not know how to use fire safety equipment.”
Presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak called the explosions in Dzhankoi “karmic retribution” in televised comments.
And the Office of Strategic Communications of Ukraine’s Armed Forces shared footage on Telegram of the fiery fallout in the area, mockingly writing: “Once again smoking in a prohibited area on the territory of occupied Crimea.”
The agency noted that Russian forces had recently sent in new missile systems to the town that were likely designated for the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, to be used to attack Ukrainian communities.
The Russian transit hub was “waiting for its time to come. Just like other targets are waiting for their time to come,” the agency wrote.
The latest blasts were followed by an ominous appeal from the Ukrainian government to residents still living on the Russian-controlled peninsula.
“We will definitely liberate Crimea, using all possible and unprohibited mechanisms to fight not only for the territory, but also for you. I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this throughout all the years of occupation. For now, be careful, hide in [properly] equipped places or in your basements. Prepare the necessary resources,” Tamila Tasheva, the permanent representative of the president of Ukraine in Crimea, wrote on Facebook.
“The war has ‘unexpectedly’ come to Crimea. Occupiers and colonizers are already fleeing Crimea,” she wrote.