DNIPRO, Ukraine — Pro-Ukrainian saboteurs were implicated in the recent Series of explosions at Russian military sites in Crimeaa Ukrainian government official told NBC News.
The series of explosions hit military depots and airbases in the annexed peninsula over the past week, hinting at a growing ability of the Ukrainian military or its backers to strike deep behind enemy lines, a development which could alter the dynamics of the war.
Kyiv has stopped publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions. The government official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to divulge information about the strikes in Crimea to journalists.
Experts have speculated that guerrilla fighters, known colloquially as “partisans”, may have played a role, given the nature of the explosions.
The official declined to say whether the military or Ukrainian special forces were also involved in the attacks. But he added: “It is only thanks to the people who oppose Putin in the occupied territories and in Russia today that resistance is possible.”
Explosions were reported near an air base late Thursday in Crimea, on the southwest coast near the port city of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. At the opposite end of the peninsula, the sky was also bright in Kerch near a huge bridge to Russia, in what Russia said was firing from its air defenses.
On Tuesday, large explosions and fires were reported at a military depot in Russia-annexed Crimea, forcing more than 3,000 people to flee the area.
Russia called the explosions at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye an “act of sabotage”, without naming any suspects. Moscow has warned in the past that such attacks would cross a red line. But, as with the explosions last week, speculation has fallen on Ukrainian forces as having masterminded the attacks on the region, which Russia has controlled since 2014.
A US official with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that the Biden administration placed no restrictions on Ukraine launching strikes in Crimea using US-supplied long-range weapons. united, such as HIMARS.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said Ukraine had pledged not to use such weapons to target sites inside Russia.
The official insisted that the United States neither encourages nor discourages Ukraine from launching attacks in Crimea, but said: “Simply put, targeting decisions of where the Ukrainians strike is up to to Ukraine”.
Despite The annexation of the peninsula by Moscow in 2014, the United States and the international community still consider Crimea to be Ukrainian territory. The peninsula is of enormous strategic and symbolic importance to Russia and Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s demand that Kyiv recognize it as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting. Ukraine, for its part, has pledged to drive the Russians out of the peninsula and all other occupied territories.
Crimea has been a major strategic hub for The invasion of Russia of mainland Ukraine, providing important supply routes for its forces occupying the south and military bases to support its war operations. It is also home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Josh Lederman reported from Dnipro and Hyder Abbasi from London.