Chris Lange, FISM News
A Russian air base in Crimea was shaken by powerful explosions Tuesday in what could signal a major escalation of the war in Ukraine. Authorities said at least one person was killed and several were wounded in the explosion at the Saki base on the Black Sea, according to an Associated Press report.
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied that the base had been shelled, claiming instead that the explosion resulted from an accidental munitions explosion due to “a violation of fire safety requirements;” however, reports that the air base was targeted by Ukraine with a dozen or so long-range missiles flooded social media networks.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry appeared to mock Russia’s accounting of the incident on social media, saying that “The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot establish the cause of the fire, but once again recalls the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places.”
Russian officials in the past have warned Ukraine that an attack on Crimea would trigger major retaliation. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to reclaim Crimea in a Tuesday night video address.
“This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “it is impossible to say when this will happen. But we are constantly adding the necessary components to the formula for the liberation of Crimea.”
Russia strikes near nuclear power plant cause for concern
Officials from Ukraine on Tuesday said that at least three Ukrainian civilians were killed and nearly two dozen injured by Russian shelling in a 24-hour period, including a strike near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the power station, fueling fears of a Chernobyl-like catastrophe.
Regional Gov. Oleksandr Starukh reported Tuesday that radiation levels at Europe’s largest nuclear plant remain normal but added that an accident could trigger a massive leak of radiation into the environment.
U.S. official: Iran to supply Russia with drones
Back in Washington, a U.S. official told CNN Tuesday that Iran has agreed to supply Russia with drones to assist it in the war on Ukraine. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said, “During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia.”
Ukrainian officials this month said Iran has transferred drones to Russia and some have been used in combat.