Ukraine was behind three explosions rocked Russian military facilities in the annexed province of Crimea this past week, including an explosion at a Russian air base on the peninsula’s west coast that wrecked several airplanes, according to a Ukrainian government report circulated internally and shared with CNN by a Ukrainian official.
The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.
The report describes the Saki airbase, which was rocked by explosions last Tuesday, as a hard but one time loss for Russian military infrastructure in the peninsula, with subsequent attacks as proof of Ukraine’s systematic military capability in targeting Crimea.
The August 9 incident at Saki airbase, which destroyed at least seven military aircraft, severely damaged the base and killed at least one person.
Russia claimed it was a result of an accident and Ukrainian officials have so far declined to confirm on the record that they were responsible.
In a speech following the incident, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – its liberation.”
Another set of explosions were reported in Crimea this week, on August 16, this time at an ammunition depot in Maiske and at an airfield in Gvardeyskoe.
Russian officials said the incident in Maiske had been the result of sabotage, but they did not specify the kind of sabotage, or whom they believed was responsible.
The attacks come as nascent resistance movement in Russian occupied areas have been carrying out acts of sabotage.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian officials confirmed that a railway bridge near Melitopol, which Russians used to transport military equipment and weapons from occupied Crimea, was blown up by Ukrainian partisans.
As analysts speculate that there is a campaign to degrade Russia’s military capability in Crimea, Zelensky warned Ukrainians living in occupied areas on Tuesday to avoid Russian forces’ military facilities.
And in reference to the miles-long tailbacks of civilian vehicles attempted to leave Crimea for Russia, Zelensky said: “The queue these days to leave Crimea for Russia via the bridge proves that the absolute majority of citizens of the terrorist state already understand or at least feel that Crimea is not a place for them.”
The Russian road state agency on Tuesday reported a new traffic record across a Crimean bridge just days after the explosions at Saki airbase.
“During the day on August 15, 38,297 cars drove across the bridge in both directions,” the statement read.
Local officials have downplayed the size of the lines saying they were the result of stricter controls on the bridge for security reasons and not because of an increase in outward traffic.
“From the point of view that they are fleeing Crimea, this is a complete lie, there is no doubt about it,” the head of the Russian-controlled Crimean administration, Sergei Aksyonov, told Russian state TV on Tuesday.
He had, however, acknowledged last month a hit on the tourism industry in Crimea saying that a 40% decline was expected over the summer. The Russian Tourism Association made a similar prediction in June.
Crimea was forcibly seized by Russia in 2014 – soon after Ukrainian protesters helped topple pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych – when thousands of Russian-speaking troops wearing unmarked uniforms poured into the peninsula in early March that year.
Two weeks later, Russia completed its annexation of Crimea in a referendum, slammed by Ukraine and most of the world as illegitimate, and then considered the biggest land-grab on Europe since World War II.