MOSCOW: An ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea exploded on Tuesday, injuring two people and disrupting railway traffic between the peninsula and the rest of southern Ukraine and Russia, the region’s top Russian-backed official said.
Footage on Russian state TV showed an electricity substation on fire near the town of Dzhankoi in Crimea and a series of repeating large explosions on the horizon which authorities said were caused by ammunition detonating at a military base.
Sergei Aksyonov, the top Russian official in Crimea, told state TV that he did not want to talk about what may have caused the explosions, something he said was being looked into.
He said around 2,000 local people had been evacuated from the nearest village beyond a 5 km (3.1 miles) perimeter.
Russia has used Crimea to reinforce its troops fighting in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine with military hardware. The damage reported to the peninsula’s rail network on Tuesday could disrupt that process.
Russia’s RIA news agency said seven passenger trains had been delayed and that rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea had been suspended. Aksyonov said a bus service would be provided to allow people to continue their journey.
The incident follows a series of explosions last week at a Russian-operated air base in Crimea which Ukrainian officials hinted were part of some kind of special operation but which Moscow said was an accident.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy accuses Russia of prosecuting an unprovoked imperial-style war of aggression. He has said his armed forces are determined to liberate territory seized by Russian troops since Feb. 24 and has spoken of taking back Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014 after a referendum unrecognised by the West.
Ukrainian Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak on Tuesday published a cryptic Tweet which hinted at possible Ukrainian involvement in Tuesday’s explosions but fell short of confirming such a role.
“(The) morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions,” wrote Podolyak.
“A reminder: Crimea (as a) normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarisation in action.”
Russia cites the demilitarisation of Ukraine as one of its main aims, something it says is necessary to preemptively ensure its own security in the face of what it has cast as uncontrolled expansion by the Western NATO military alliance.