Aug 11, 2022 - World

Satellite images show severely damaged Russian air base in Crimea

A satellite image showing the aftermath of the Ukrainian strike on Saki Air Base in southwest Crimea captured  on Aug. 10.
A satellite image caputured on Aug. 10 showing the aftermath of explosions at Russia's Saki Air Base in southwest Crimea. Satellite photo: Planet Labs PBC

Several Russian warplanes appeared to have been destroyed after a series of explosions hit a Russian air base in southwest Crimea earlier this week, satellite images recently captured by Planet Labs show.

State of play: Ukraine has not officially claimed or denied responsibility for the explosions at Saki Air Base, and Russia's defense ministry claimed the explosions were caused by detonated aviation ammunition.

  • Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the blasts were either caused by Ukrainian-made long-range weapons or the result of an attack by Ukrainian fighters in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, per AP.
  • At least one person was killed and several others were wounded in the blasts, according to AP.

Why it matters: If Ukrainian fighters were behind the explosions, it would mark the first known major attack against Russian forces in Crimea since the war began and a significant escalation in the war, AP notes.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address this week that Russia's invasion of Ukraine must end with Crimea's liberation because "Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up."
  • "This Russian war against Ukraine and against the entire free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — with its liberation. Today it is impossible to say when this will happen. But we are constantly adding the necessary components to the formula of liberation of Crimea," Zelensky said.
A satellite image showing Saki Air Base in southwest Crimea captured on Aug. 9.
A satellite image capture on Aug. 9 showing Saki Air Base before the explosions. Satellite photo: Planet Labs PBC

The big picture: An image captured by Planet Labs before the strike on Aug. 9 shows at least 20 Russian warplanes inside blast-protected parking slots near large, flat-roofed buildings or on unprotected areas of the air base's tarmac.

  • An image captured on Aug. 10 revealed wreckage or burn scars from several planes, though it's not possible to confirm exactly how many planes were destroyed or damaged from the explosions. Ukraine’s Air Force claimed that nine planes were destroyed.
  • The images undermine Russia's claims that no planes were destroyed in the explosions.
  • Several of the buildings depicted in the Aug. 9 image were leveled in the Aug. 10 photo, while large portions of the fields surrounding the portion of tarmac are blackened, potentially indicating that a fire spread throughout the base after the attack.
  • Videos posted on social media Tuesday showed a massive plume from explosions at the air base, which is located over 100 miles from the nearest front line.

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