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What Hit Russian Airbase In Crimea: Two Key Versions

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What Hit Russian Airbase In Crimea: Two Key Versions
PHOTO: REUTERS

Explosions in Novofedorivka became a slap in the face of Russian air defense.

In the afternoon on August 9, news appeared in the media that many Ukrainians, consciously or subconsciously, had been waiting for all five and a half months of a full-scale war, and possibly even since 2014: several powerful explosions thundered at the Russian military air base in Saki, near the village of Novofedorivka. The columns of smoke were visible both on land and at sea, writes nv.ua.

Later, the so-called "head of the Crimea" Serhiy Aksyonov confirmed the information that the explosions happened at the Saki military facility. He did not give specific information about what caused the incident.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, of course, stated that "everything is going according to plan": they say, there was a "detonation of several aviation munitions" that occurred at 15:20 at the Saki airfield. No one allegedly suffered, just as the aircraft did not suffer.

At the same time, the Crimean "authorities" immediately spoke about five victims, and later the media of the aggressor country stated that one person died and nine more were injured. Preparing the ground for future accusations against Ukraine, the Russian Federation began to say that all the victims were exclusively civilians.

In its Telegram channel, the Ukrainian investigative program Scheme recalled that the Saki airfield is one of the key airfields for Russian aviation on the occupied peninsula. The 43rd Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces was based there, which mainly consists of Su-30SM, Su-33 aircraft and Su-24M bombers. The aggressor country uses the airfield for bombing and airstrikes on Ukrainian cities.

Planet Labs satellite imagery, taken about four hours before the Novofedorivka series of explosions, shows a large number of Russian military aircraft and warehouses.

After a series of explosions, the Russians announced the evacuation of houses located near the military base. And Aksyonov declared a "yellow level of terrorist threat" until August 24.

Experts also started talking about the fact that the explosions at a military facility located more than 200 km from the nearest positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were the result of a missile attack.

Prior to this, Ukrainian forces had never launched strikes on the occupied peninsula. And if the missiles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine really flew there, this case will be the first example of an attack on enemy facilities in the Crimea, which in Moscow is considered not some kind of "republic", but "their own", Russian lands.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine ironically commented on the explosions at a facility near Novofedorivka. They noted that they could not establish the cause of the fire on the territory of the airfield, but recalled the "fire safety rules and the ban on smoking in unauthorized places."

Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, did not answer NV's question about whether Ukrainian forces had attacked the enemy's Crimean airbase. Later, Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the President's Office, said on the air of the Dozhd TV channel that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had nothing to do with the explosions at the airfield.

How it happened

The American The New York Times, citing an unnamed "high-ranking Ukrainian military official with knowledge of the situation," reported that Ukrainian forces had attacked the Saki air base. "It was an air base from which planes regularly took off to strike at our troops on the southern front," a source told the NYT.

The military official did not disclose the type of weapons, but specified that they were Ukrainian-made.

Military expert Viktor Kevlyuk admits that the strikes could have been carried out by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles using GPS modules to target land targets.

"Theoretically, this is possible," the analyst believes, specifying that the firing range of the Neptunes reaches 280 km.

Probably, it was Neptune that earlier destroyed the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Mykola Beleskov, chief consultant of the military and military-economic policy department of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, suggests that the Ukrainian Armed Forces could use American anti-radar missiles AGM-88 HARM, launching them from MiG-29 or Su-27 fighters. Aircraft, however, had to be modified to use such weapons.

"They flew out, shot over the Black Sea, and returned," admits Beleskov.

However, it was not the AGM-88 HARM that AFU hit the base directly, Kevlyuk explains: with them, the Ukrainian forces only "punched a hole" in the air defense of the facility. "And two long-range American ATACMS missiles were fired at this window," the expert says.

The main installation for launching ATACMS, whose flight range is up to 300 km, is the already well-known HIMARS multiple launch missile systems. True, the Americans officially stated that they were supplying Ukraine with much shorter range missiles for these installations. However, the former adviser to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Viktor Andrusiv, wrote that the Armed Forces of Ukraine already have ammunition with a range of 200-300 km.

Serhiy Zgurets, director of the information and consulting company Defense Express, is also inclined to the version that ATACMS worked at the Saki airfield. And although there are no video frames of the moments of the explosions of the missiles themselves, so far this is “only a version”. ATACMS is a ballistic missile that flies into an object almost vertically and develops a high speed. For this reason, it is difficult to notice at normal video playback speed. "When the Russians, with their ballistic missile Kinzhal, hit the Kyiv shopping center Retroville, the video shooting also did not capture the missiles themselves,” recalls Zgurets.

However, experts deny the possibility that the explosions in Novofedorivka could be the result of a drone attack or the actions of a sabotage group.

Hole in the sky

British expert Timothy Ash wrote in a Bloomberg mailing list about the attack on Novofedorivka: "It is noteworthy that Russian air defenses failed again." The air base in Saki, in his opinion, is the same 'high-class' target as the cruiser Moskva, earlier sunk by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Because the fact that several Ukrainian missiles hit the target testifies to the complete failure of the Russian air defense system.

Earlier, military journalist Yuriy Butusov wrote that in just August 5-7, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces immediately destroyed 14 units of anti-aircraft missile systems and radar stations of Russians. In his opinion, this sudden 'pestilence' could be the result of a powerful blow, probably delivered by the AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles already mentioned.

Moreover, their deliveries were not initially advertised.

But just before the attack on Novofedorivka, the Pentagon confirmed that they had handed over anti-radar missiles to Ukraine.

It's time for the Russians to run

Meanwhile, Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and deputy of the Verkhovna Rada, addressed the Russians in the Crimea in Russian. “You have just received the first ‘call’ instructing you to immediately leave the territory of the Russian-occupied Crimea. Know that your stay in the occupied Crimea is illegal and criminal. Do not waste time, leave the Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation today. Remember, the one who crosses the bridge across the Kerch Strait today will win!” he wrote on Facebook.

Judging by the video published by Russian Telegram channels, many Russians heard Chubarov, and a traffic jam formed on the roads in the direction of Kerch and the bridge by the evening of August 9.