Several large explosions occurred at Russia's Saki Air Base in occupied Crimea this week.
Ukraine has not taken credit, though officials have privately said Ukraine was behind the blasts.
Experts and officials say an attack that far behind Russian lines could have a psychological impact.
A Russian base in occupied Crimea, far behind the front lines of the ongoing war in Ukraine, was rocked by multiple large explosions this week, which left not only physical damage to buildings, planes, and personnel but likely psychological damage as well, according to experts and officials.
Russia claimed the blasts at Saki Air Base near Novofedorivka Tuesday were caused by the accidental detonation of ammunition stores and said that there were no injuries or damage to aircraft stationed at the base.
—Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 10, 2022
Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the explosions at Saki Air Base, which sits alongside oceanfront resorts popular with Russian tourists a couple hundreds kilometers from the frontline devastation and destruction in eastern Ukraine.
Privately, however, Ukrainian officials have been telling the media that Ukraine was behind the apparent attack.
—Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) August 9, 2022
Exactly how Ukraine might have been involved in the explosions remains something of a mystery.
One unnamed Ukrainian government official told The Washington Post that the attack at the airbase was carried out by special forces, while a Ukrainian presidential advisor suggested it was the work of either ranged weapons or local partisans, according to the Associated Press.
In another article, a US official told The Post that it appeared Ukraine had used a long-range weapon but not one provided by the US, which has been hesitant to provide capabilities that would allow Ukraine to strike Russia, such as ATACMS missiles for US-made HIMARS.
A Ukrainian official told The New York Times that the explosions at the base, from which "planes regularly took off for attacks against our forces," were caused by a "a device exclusively of Ukrainian manufacture."
"I don't think it was an ammunition accident," Jeffrey Edmonds, an expert on the Russian military at CNA and a former CIA military analyst, told Insider.
"The best bet is there's a short-range ballistic missile that the Ukrainians had been working on," he said.
Ukraine has been working on such a missile, known as the Hrim-2 among some other names, and it is estimated to have a range of several hundred kilometers. Edmonds noted though that it is unclear if that missile is active.
"That would be my bet," Edmonds said. "It is a high-level of precision," he added. "They hit right where the aircraft were."
He said the amount of partisan activity in Crimea is uncertain, and a special-forces attack on the installation would probably have involved destroying military aircraft and structures with charges, causing damage different from what was seen in the satellite images of the base.
Perhaps much more important than how the apparent attack was executed or even the targets is the psychological effect on the Russians, as experts and officials have noted.
An unnamed Ukrainian official told Politico that the blasts let the Russians know that they "are safe nowhere," adding that this development "let them know how it feels."
"They are not invincible anywhere," Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister and head of the Center for Defense Strategies, explained to The Post. "They cannot feel safe in Crimea. They thought they were safe in Crimea and they thought they were safe at long-range distance."
"The psychological impact of this is much larger" than damage to the military base or the loss of some Russian aircraft, Edmonds said, telling Insider that it is a fair assessment that the implications of what occurred at Saki are that Russian positions in the rear are probably no longer safe.
Russian forces have struggled to achieve President Vladimir Putin's objectives in Ukraine due to missteps early in the war and fierce resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces, which derailed Russian efforts to take the capital and forced Moscow to concentrate on the east. Ukraine has already begun mounting a counteroffensive to retake lost ground.
Responding to questions from Politico about whether the explosions at the Russian military base in Crimea represented the beginning of a southern counteroffensive, officials said that "you can say this is it."
A senior Ukrainian defense official who confirmed Ukraine's involvement in the blasts at the base told Yahoo News that things are "just getting warmed up."
Read the original article on Business Insider