For the second time in the past week, a Russian military base in Crimea has been rocked by explosions. An ammunition depot in the village of Mayskoye, in the Dzhankoi district, was the scene of explosions that caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the fire flared up at a “site for the temporary storage of ammunition of one of the military units.”
“As a result of the fire, the stored ammunition detonated,” the Ministry stated, adding that the cause of the fire was still unknown. A nearby electric substation also caught fire. The Ministry added that there were no serious casualties. However, a Russian-appointed official in the area, Sergei Aksyonov, said two people were wounded.
“One man has a shrapnel wound, and one was crushed by a wall. Their lives are not in danger, fortunately,” he said. Train service in the area had also been disrupted.
“After consulting with the leadership of the Crimean railroad, the decision was made to stop passenger trains coming from the mainland at the Vladislavovka station,” Aksyonov wrote on the Telegram channel app.
“There, the passengers will be provided with buses to take them to the nearest bus stations,” he added.
A video captured by an independent journalist showed massive fireballs erupting over a wide swath of territory, with secondary projectiles flying in all directions.
Ukraine: Fire Was No Accident
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, characterized the fire as “demilitarization in action,” hinting that it was not an accident.
“Morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea of normal country (sic) is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation, and tourism,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
“Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouse explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” he added in his post. Refat Chubarov, a Tartar leader from Crimea, said the explosion was a “hit that could be heard far across the steppe.”
A senior Ukrainian official speaking on condition of anonymity was quoted by The New York Times as saying the explosions were the result of a Ukrainian special forces unit operating far behind the frontlines.
The explosion at the ammunition dump comes on the heels of a series of explosions at a Russian airbase at Saki, in Crimea, last week, where reportedly at least eight Su-24 and Su-30 aircraft were destroyed, and others damaged. Since the introduction of U.S.-made HIMARS systems in June, Ukrainian forces have been targeting Russian ammunition dumps, destroying 50 so far.
The British Defense Ministry, in its daily intelligence assessment, said that the blasts at the Saki airbase had significantly degraded the aviation capability of the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet. That attack was also characterized by a Ukrainian official as one carried out by special forces personnel, working in conjunction with local partisans.
Wagner Group HQ Hit in Missile Strike
Using intelligence gleaned from Russian journalists, Ukrainian forces launched a precision missile strike that took out the headquarters of the Wagner Group in Eastern Ukraine. The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company, or PMC, that operates as an arm of the Russian military. They have been accused of war crimes wherever they’ve operated, especially in Syria and across multiple countries in Africa.
On July 29, the Ukrainian military accused Wagner of starting a fire in a POW compound that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners captured during the siege of Mariupol. There have been widespread accusations that the Mariupol survivors have been tortured.
Luhansk Governor Serihy Haidai wrote on the Telegram channel app that the Ukrainian military “hit an enemy HQ whose whereabouts were established thanks to a Russian journalist.”
“This time, the successful strike destroyed the Wagner PMC HQ in Popasna yesterday,” he said, adding that “the number of dead is being clarified.”
Sergei Sreda, a pro-Russian journalist, previously posted a since-deleted picture online showing Wagner’s HQ, with a street sign in the background. The sign identified the address as Mironovskaya 12, Popasna, according to a piece in the Ukrainian daily news Ukrainska Pravda.
Wagner has long been linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin – nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because Russian President Vladimir Putin and the armed forces have long used his catering business. Another Russian military blogger wrote on the Telegram app, “A strike was carried out on one of the Wagner PMC locations in Popasna. Sources in Donbas confirm that. Probably ‘HIMARS.’ Ukrainian sources report the death of Prigozhin – we don’t confirm that.”
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer, mainly in the 7th SFG. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.