Crimea Airbase Attacked as Russians

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Ukraine fired 20 missiles at Russian targets in and around Crimea on Wednesday, Russia’s government said, as influential voices in the Russian military community have lamented the alleged impact of Kyiv’s attacks on the annexed peninsula.

Ukraine struck the Belbek airfield close to the port city of Sevastopol on Crimea’s western edge, Ukrainian air force commander, Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleschuk, confirmed in a post to Telegram on Wednesday.

“I thank everyone who participated in the cleansing of Crimea from the Russian presence!” Oleschuk added, posting a video appearing to show thick smoke rising into the sky as alarms blared.

Shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Black Sea emerged as a key battleground. Ukraine has vowed to reclaim Crimea, which sits to the south of the mainland, but has been controlled by the Kremlin’s forces since its annexation in 2014.

Geolocated footage published on Wednesday shows “large smoke plumes rising from the airfield” near Sevastopol, said the U.S.-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

One of the Ukrainian missiles hit a communications point at the Belbek airfield, Russian independent news outlet Astra reported on Thursday. Newsweek could not independently verify this.

Sevastopol
Russian forces block access to the Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile military unit in Sevastopol on March 7, 2014. Ukraine struck the Belbek airfield close to the port city of Sevastopol on Crimea’s western edge, said a…
Russian forces block access to the Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile military unit in Sevastopol on March 7, 2014. Ukraine struck the Belbek airfield close to the port city of Sevastopol on Crimea’s western edge, said a Ukrainian air force official.
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VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian media accounts and Russian military bloggers reported a string of additional strikes, including around the Saky air base close to the western Crimean city of Yevpatoria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday its air defenses had shot down all 17 missiles that Ukraine had fired over the Black Sea and another three missiles over Crimea at around 5 p.m. Moscow time (9 a.m. ET). “Fragments of Ukrainian missiles fell on the territory of a military unit” north of Sevastopol, Moscow said, where Russia has a key base for its Black Sea fleet.

There was no damage to Russian aircraft based on the peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said the Russian military had “repelled a massive attack on Sevastopol,” writing on Telegram that no one was injured, but at least 12 buildings were damaged by debris.

An influential but anonymous pro-Kremlin Telegram account, citing alleged government insiders, said on Wednesday that Russia had lost “three planes” at the Belbek airfield, adding Ukraine fired 24 missiles, five of which were not intercepted.

Two jets were “seriously damaged” but may be repaired, the account said. “One plane, unfortunately, was completely destroyed; a missile hit it directly.” The Telegram channel said 12 people had been killed close to the airfield, and an additional 10 injured.

Nine elite Russian special forces soldiers were killed near the central Crimean town of Gvardeyskoye, the account said, adding there were “no casualties or destruction” near Saky.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.

Another prominent Russian military blogger, Rybar, said Ukraine used six Storm Shadow or SCALP cruise missiles, one of which was intercepted over the northern Crimean town of Krasnoperekopsk. Another missile was shot down over Gvardeyskoye, according to the account, which has links to the Kremlin.

Kyiv then fired another six missiles towards the Belbek airfield, the military blogger said. “The Ukrainian formations clearly aimed their air assets at the airfield network on the peninsula: Dzhankoi, Gvardeyskoye and Belbek,” Rybar wrote on Thursday.

Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian military for comment via email.

On Tuesday, Ukraine said it had successfully taken out a Russian radar station linked to Moscow’s air defenses in Crimea.

Ukraine frequently targets Russian assets across Crimea, including in Sevastopol, often using Western-supplied cruise missiles like the British air-launched Storm Shadow and attack drones. Kyiv succeeded in sinking the Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, in April 2022 and took out a Russian submarine in September 2023.

Kyiv’s forces have also damaged a number of Moscow’s landing ships, such as the Minsk, the Saratov and the Olenegorsky Gornyak. In late December, Ukraine targeted Russia’s Novocherkassk landing ship in the eastern Crimean port of Feodosia.

Ukraine launched a concerted strike campaign against Russia’s presence in Crimea in mid-2023, the ISW think tank said on Wednesday, adding Kyiv was looking to tear down Russia’s ability to use the peninsula as a “staging and rear area for defensive operations in southern Ukraine.”

Earlier this month, the ISW suggested Ukrainian forces were “conducting a multi-day strike campaign against Russian military targets in occupied Crimea and have successfully struck several targets throughout the peninsula.”

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, said earlier this month that Kyiv’s assaults on the annexed peninsula were “just the beginning.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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