Russia scramble to protect Crimea after it is rocked by huge explosion

Russian air defences attempt to take down missile

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An eastern district of Crimea has been rocked by unexplained explosions in what could be the latest Ukrainian attack on the annexed region. Russian air defences scrambled to intercept what appeared to be missiles in the Nyzhnоhirskyi district of Crimea in the early hours of Thursday, footage showed. One eastern European media outlet, Visegrad 24, suggested “multiple Ukrainian missiles” were hitting targets in Crimea, while they shared a video that showed Russian air defences “failing” to prevent the bombs from striking territory. 

Footage of the incident showed defensive missiles being continually shot towards approaching missiles in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

After roughly 15 seconds of constant fire, a loud explosion can be seen as one missile looks to have collided into another. 

In other footage, the defensive rounds look like they are being fired in random directions as the Russian forces scramble to prevent a successful hit. 

It is unclear whether the explosion was Russian defensive fire hitting its own missiles or an offensive attack. 

It is the second round of attacks in two days in Crimea after two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were struck down targeting the Russian Belbek airbase near the port city of Sevastopol early on Wednesday morning. 

Russian air defence systems were set off on Wednesday, according to local officials, as they desperately tried to protect military equipment. 

Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, confirmed that air defences had been triggered twice in the early hours of Wednesday.

Later, the Russian-appointed “Governor of Sevastopol” Mykhailo Razvozhaev stated that “in the morning, the air defence system shot down two UAVs over the sea in the Belbek area”.

Sevastopol is a vital port city for Russia; from there, they launch their Black Sea fleet responsible for bombing critical energy infrastructure across Ukraine.

It is also the only warm water port that Russia has access to – its Siberian ports freeze for up to four months each year due to the harsh conditions – making it paramount to Russia’s ability to export goods all year round. 

The speed with which Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Western rallies began in Kyiv, as well as the degree to which their Armed Forces have been fortifying the land corridor above Crimea since the Ukrainian liberation of the southern port city of Kherson in November, are indicative of the importance of Sevastopol to Russia’s influence on the global stage.

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Ukrainian Ministry of Defence spokesman Andriy Chernyak said on Wednesday that Russia was now making “every effort” to preserve the land corridor above Crimea, deploying new military units to the northern parts of the Black Sea region. 

He said: “They (Russia) are losing. That’s why they create defensive structures where they can, realising that they will have to conduct combat operations on these lines. 

“Their idea was to capture the Donetsk Oblast, the coast of the Sea of Azov, and their plans were also to cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea. But Russia could not implement any plans in Ukraine.”

Mr Chernyak said the land corridor immediately above crime was “certainly not safe” given both the desire of the Ukrainian forces to retake it and the weapons supplies now being afforded to them by the West.

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