On Saturday, a Ukrainian drone attack targeted an ammunition depot in Crimea, resulting in an explosion that led to evacuations on the Russian-controlled peninsula. The incident also caused disruptions in rail traffic. This attack occurred just five days after drones had previously damaged Russia’s symbolic bridge across the Kerch Strait.
Since its annexation by Russia in 2014, Crimea has been a target of attacks from Kyiv during Moscow’s 17-month-long offensive in Ukraine. However, in recent weeks, the region has experienced even more intense and heightened attacks.
Amid a counteroffensive to reclaim territories lost to Moscow, Kyiv has become more resolute in its intentions, despite some Western concerns, to regain control of the Black Sea peninsula.
“The goal is to return Crimea,” stated Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a speech at the Aspen Security Forum, as per a transcript released by his office on Saturday.
According to Zelenskyy, Kyiv views the Crimea bridge, inaugurated by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2018, as an “enemy object” that needs to be “neutralized.”
Within a day, Sergei Aksyonov, the Moscow-appointed leader of Crimea, reported that an “enemy” drone caused an explosion at an ammunition depot.
Aksyonov conveyed through Telegram that an ammunition depot in the Krasnogvardeisky district of Crimea detonated due to an attack by an enemy drone.
Busy night in Ukraine on both sides of the frontline. Russian missile and drone strikes in Odesa and elsewhere. Ukraine struck with a missile one of the biggest Russian ammunition sites at a base in Crimea, forcing authorities to evacuate nearby villages. Video is from Crimea. pic.twitter.com/4Mp2cJ9Po6
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) July 19, 2023
He did not specify exactly where it hit and ordered the evacuation of people living within five kilometers of the zone without saying how many residents would be moved.
Aksyonov reported no casualties and claimed there was little damage, but unverified videos on social media showed billowing smoke rising into the air.
Additionally, he announced the suspension of rail traffic on the Crimean railways to minimize potential risks.
Subsequently, authorities confirmed that two trains heading from Moscow to Crimea’s main city, Simferopol, and one train in the opposite direction were brought to a halt.
Road traffic across the Crimea bridge, which serves as one of the limited means of leaving Crimea since flights were suspended during the conflict, resumed only on Saturday after a Ukrainian attack on Tuesday caused damage to the bridge, resulting in the loss of two lives.
The attacks on Crimea have raised concerns among many of Ukraine’s Western allies. These nations are apprehensive about the potential for a larger-scale conflict with Russia that could draw in other nations — including the United States — prompting discomfort regarding Ukraine’s ambitions to retake the region.