Satellite images reveal extent of damage to Russian airbase in Crimea

·2 min read

New satellite images appear to show the degree of damage caused by a number of explosions at a Russian air base in Crimea, with the burnt-out husks of at least eight destroyed warplanes clearly visible.

One person was killed and five others injured during a series of blasts at the Saky air base near Novofedorivka on Crimea’s western coast on Tuesday.

Although Ukraine has stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, Tuesday's attack was the first instance of the disputed region being struck during the ongoing war.

The airbase has been reportedly used by Russia to strike areas in the southern region of Ukraine.

Moscow has denied any instances of damage, or that any attack took place. According to witnesses, at least 12 explosions took place in the afternoon, with the final blast being the loudest.

The satellite images shared by Planet Labs – the American earth imaging agency monitoring satellite feeds over Ukraine – show areas of scorched earth in the aftermath of the explosions.

While the runway looks intact, the jets parked in the open appear to have been destroyed.

A satellite image by Planet Labs PBC shows Saki Air Base after an explosion there (AP)
A satellite image by Planet Labs PBC shows Saki Air Base after an explosion there (AP)

The airbase on the Black Sea peninsula is at least 200kms away from the closest Ukrainian position and out of the range of the missiles supplied by the US for use in the HIMARS systems.

The Ukrainian military has successfully used those missiles, with a range of 80km to target ammunition and fuel depots, strategic bridges and other key targets in Russia-occupied territories.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian governor of Crimea, posted a video on his Telegram channel stating that a 5km exclusion zone has been established around the base.

“Ambulance crews are working on site ... it is too early to talk about victims,” he said. “Among the civilian population, nobody has been admitted to hospital for medical treatment.”

On Wednesday, Russian authorities downplayed the attack, claiming that the “detonation of several aviation ammunition stores” had caused the explosion.

However, Moscow had earlier warned Kyiv that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on “decision-making centres” in the Ukrainian capital.

Hours after the blast Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to retake the peninsula, adding “this Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – its liberation."

According to Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov, Zelenksy's forces could have struck the airbase with a Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missile that has a range of about 200km, which could have been fired from near Mykolaiv, located northwest of Crimea.

The Ukrainian military could have also used Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the West, which have a range of nearly 300km and can be used against ground targets.

“Official Kyiv has kept mum about it, but unofficially the military acknowledges that it was a Ukrainian strike,” Mr Zhdanov told Associated Press.