Ukraine Estimates Sharply Higher Russian Casualty Toll in Crimea Blasts | The New York Times

A senior Ukrainian official said there were 60 dead and 100 wounded in a series of explosions that destroyed several Russian warplanes in a Moscow-controlled region.

by UKCHP_Admin

A senior Ukrainian official suggested on Friday that the casualty toll from explosions at an air base in Crimea this week was far higher than previous estimates, further contradicting a Russian account about damage at a site that has been a vital jumping-off point for Moscow’s military operations since its invasion of Ukraine began in late February.

The official, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs, said that 60 pilots and technicians had been killed and 100 people wounded when a series of explosions rocked the Saki field on Crimea’s western Black Sea coast on Tuesday. He said the conclusion was based on video evidence and intelligence data, but he offered no further details.

There has been no independent confirmation of the toll, and most experts have focused on estimating the damage to Russian military equipment. Satellite photos released by Planet Labs, a satellite imaging company, appear to show at least eight wrecked war planes and three blast craters in areas where planes were parked near the runways.

Officials previously said that at least one person had been killed and more than a dozen wounded.

The Russian authorities have said that munitions stored at the site exploded, and denied that any aircraft were destroyed.

Mr. Gerashchenko dismissed the Russian account as a “blatant lie” and compared the explosions to the political and military damage caused to Moscow by the sinking of Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea, the Moskva, in April. That attack, by Ukrainian Neptune missiles, was an embarrassment to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“Judging by the way the cars were damaged by the explosion, shrapnel and fire, there is no chance that any plane made of delicate, thin magnesium and aluminum alloy remained intact,” Mr. Gerashchenko said of the Crimea explosions.

A British military intelligence report said on Friday that at least five fighter bombers and three multi-role jets had been “almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged” in the blasts, which it said had resulted from the detonation of up to four uncovered munition storage areas.

A senior Ukrainian official has said the blasts were an attack carried out with the help of partisans, resistance fighters who aid the Ukrainian military on Russian-occupied territory. But the government in Kyiv has been reluctant to specify how the explosions happened, or to elaborate on whether it was responsible.

Even so, the attack appears to follow a pattern of bold Ukrainian strikes against an enemy that was initially deemed to far exceed Kyiv’s military strength.

The explosions are all the more galling for Russia, because Crimea — which Moscow annexed in 2014 — has largely escaped fighting since February and the base was far from any recognizable front line.

In an overnight speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine chided officials for disclosing details of attacks carried out by its forces, or from bragging.

“War is definitely not the time for vanity and loud statements,” he said in the remarks, which made no reference to the air base explosion. “The less concrete details you give about our defense plans, the better it will be for the implementation of those defense plans.”



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