Russian military base destroyed in Crimea was destroyed in shelling

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Russian military base destroyed in Crimea was destroyed in shelling

An artillery unit from Ukraine's 58th Brigade fires from a frontline position near the town of Bakhmut towards advancing Russian infantry around the town of Pokrovske on Wednesday.

ODESA, Ukraine - After explosions tore through a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, Russia's Defense Ministry quickly played down the extent of the damage, saying no equipment had been destroyed and a munitions blast had left no casualties. Video from the scene and an assessment by local officials, who declared a state of emergency, told a very different story, with at least one person killed, more than a dozen wounded and hundreds moved into shelters. More than 60 apartment buildings were damaged, along with 20 stores and other buildings, officials said. After the huge plumes of smoke cleared, the remains of a warplane could be seen apparently melted into the tarmac. Satellite imagery showed craters, burn marks and at least eight destroyed fighter jets. The images and report by local officials on Wednesday contradicted the Kremlin's earlier account of what had happened in Crimea, a strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and suggested that the destruction there was far greater than acknowledged.

The base is home to fighter aircraft and helicopters that Ukrainian officials say have been used to deadly effect in the battle for Ukraine's Black Sea coastal region. Ukraine's military intelligence service has named several dozen pilots from the base it has accused of carrying out attacks on civilian areas. The damage to the air base was difficult to assess on Wednesday. One video that emerged in the aftermath, verified by The New York Times, showed the charred nose cone of a fighter jet, its fuselage a black, shapeless mass.

An attack on a target in Crimea, which Russia has transformed over eight years of occupation into a bristling military hub, would also represent an expansion of Ukraine's military reach since the invasion began in February. Although fighting has been raged for weeks in southern Ukraine, including near Europe's largest nuclear plant, Crimea's distance and defenses have kept it far from Ukrainian attacks. We consider anonymous sources before we use them. How do the sources know the information? Have they proved reliable in the past? How can I corroborate the information? The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort, even with these questions satisfied. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source. You can learn more about our process. Videos reviewed and verified by The New York Times showed that a plume of smoke was rising from the air base just before three explosions: two in quick succession and a third a few moments later. The video shows what caused the blasts. The senior Ukrainian official wouldn't reveal whether local resistance forces, known as partisans, carried out the attack or assisted Ukrainian military units in targeting the base, as has sometimes occurred in other Russia-occupied territories. Ukraine has increasingly turned to guerrillas in those territories to reach targets deep behind enemy lines, officials said. Ukrainian officials say that partisans have helped Ukrainian forces target Russian bases and ammunition depots in the Kherson region. Ukraine's military and its partisan allies, often acting in coordination, have managed to attack Russian targets in occupied territory far from the front. Russia has also had attacks within its own borders, including a helicopter attack on a fuel depot and fires at another fuel depot, both of which are relatively close to Ukrainian territory.