- The broken and charred remains of several Russian fighter jets can be seen in the aftermath of the blasts
- Around one square mile of earth was burned in the attack and multiple craters are peppered across the site
- Several powerful explosions rang out at the Saki airbase in Western Crimea on Tuesday afternoon
- The suspected Ukrainian attack killed one, injured 14 and destroyed at least nine Russian military aircraft
- Russia denies any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts, which they said were the result of an accident
- Comes amid reports that another airbase in used by Russia in southern Belarus exploded late last night
PUBLISHED: 18:02 AEST, 11 August 2022 | UPDATED: 20:13 AEST, 11 August 2022
Startling new satellite images have showcased the extent of the damage at a Russian air force base in Crimea after devastating explosions ravaged the site on Tuesday afternoon.
The broken and charred remains of several Russian fighter jets can be seen in the aftermath of the blasts which are believed to have damaged up to 20 aircraft and demolished ammunition storage facilities.
Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts – or that any attack took place. More explosions were then reported last night at Zyabrovka airbase in the Homiel region of southern Belarus just 20 miles from the northern Ukrainian border, which has also been used by the Russian air force.
Again, officials tried to downplay the blasts – saying they were an accident caused by an aircraft engine fire.
But photos of the Saki base in Crimea published by US-based satellite imaging company Planet Labs PBC clearly showed at least seven fighter planes had been obliterated in what is widely thought to have been a Ukrainian strike.
Ukrainian officials stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, but confirmed at least nine planes had been destroyed and mocked Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker might have caused ammunition at the Saki air base to catch fire and blow up.
If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for the blasts, it would be the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russian warplanes have launched untold numbers of strikes on Ukraine’s southeastern regions from the Saki airbase.
Meanwhile in Belarus, at least eight blasts were reported at the Zyabrovka airbase used regularly by Russian military aircraft.
Satellite images of the base shared by Maxar technologies in February just days before Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border on Feb. 24 showed huge quantities of military equipment stationed at the base as well as a series of Mi-28 attack helicopters.
These images, taken before (L) and after (R) Tuesday’s blasts, show how several Russian fighter jets were destroyed. The wreckage of up to seven aircraft are clearly seen, with reports putting the total number of damaged planes as high as 20
Huge swathes of scorched earth can be seen in this image (right) of the Saki airbase following the blasts earlier this week. Images taken before the explosions (left) show untouched grassland
These images, taken before (L) and after (R) the suspected Ukrainian attack, show how multiple airplanes were left devastated with multiple craters adorning the base. The runways however look largely undamaged
The explosions caused significant damage at the Saki/Novofedorivka airbase in Western Crimea – a key strategic location from which Russia has launched jets to deliver strikes across southeastern Ukraine. Another explosion, thought to be a Ukrainian attack, rang out yesterday in the northern Chongar region
Rows of Russian Mi-28 attack helicopters are seen lined up along the runway at the Zyabrovka airbase in southern Belarus just days before Russia invaded Ukraine
The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 14, sent tourists fleeing in panic from a nearby beach as plumes of smoke snaked along the coastline
This still, taken from a video, shows the remains of a Russian fighter jet in the immediate aftermath of the suspected Ukrainian strike on Tuesday
Planet Labs’ photographs taken on Wednesday afternoon roughly 24 hours after the explosions at the Saki base in Crimea showed roughly one square mile of grassland burned to a crisp.
Several craters marked the ground near the tarmac – typically the sign of a powerful explosion – and the smouldering wreckage of several jets are clearly visible.
The two runways meanwhile bore no apparent damage and appeared to still be operational, while some of the fighter jets on the flight line had been moved farther down the runway and had seemingly escaped the explosions.
The base has been home to the Russian 43rd Independent Naval Assault Air Squadron since Moscow seized Crimea.
The squadron flies Sukhoi Su-24s and Sukhoi Su-30s and has been instrumental in delivering air support and strikes across southeastern Ukraine.
Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for both sides.
The Kremlin demands that Ukraine recognises Crimea as part of Russia as a key condition of any potential ceasefire agreement.
Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula, with president Volodymyr Zelensky declaring earlier this week: ‘Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up… The Russian war against Ukraine and the whole of free Europe must end with Crimea and its liberation.’
The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 14, sent tourists fleeing in panic from a nearby beach as plumes of smoke snaked along the coastline.
Videos circulated on social media showed shattered windows and holes in the brickwork of some buildings, with cars close to the airbase devastated in the blasts.
One tourist, Natalia Lipovaya, said that ‘the earth was gone from under my feet’ after the powerful blasts. ‘I was so scared,’ she said.
Sergey Milochinsky, a local resident, recalled hearing a roar and seeing a mushroom cloud from his window. ‘Everything began to fall around, collapse,’ he said.
Crimea’s regional leader, Sergei Aksyonov, said some 250 residents were moved to temporary housing after dozens of apartment buildings were damaged.
Russian authorities sought to downplay the explosions, saying Wednesday that all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians.