Mushroom cloud erupts at Russian base after ‘first Ukrainian missile strike’ on Crimea sends tourists fleeing from beach

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AN attack on a Russian military base in Crimea has killed one and wounded several others.

Initial reports said the Saki base had come under fire from Ukrainian missiles but a daring raid by commandos is also suspected after huge mushroom cloud rose into the sky and tourists fled from a beach.

Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that it was hit by the country’s long-range missiles.

One of Kyiv’s military officials told the New York Times that the nation’s armed forces had launched the attack.

A team of saboteurs was suspected to have targeted Russian warplanes based at the airfield – 200 miles from frontline positions.

But Russia’s state news agency Tass quoted an unidentified defence ministry source as saying the explosions were caused by a violation of fire safety rules and no warplanes were damaged.

During the war, Russia has reported numerous fires and explosions at munitions storage sites on its territory near the Ukrainian border, blaming some of them on Kyiv’s forces.

But the Ukrainian authorities have mostly remained silent about the incidents, maintaining an ambiguous stand and not claiming responsibility.

A dozen explosions were heard of varying intensity and huge columns of smoke were seen on the clip.

One local said: “It slammed so loudly that we were deafened.”

Another said: “Something is burning in Novofedorivka. There are some explosions as it burns.”

Oleg Kryuchkov, advisor to the Vladimir Putin’s goons in region, said: “So far I can only confirm the fact of several explosions in the Novofedorivka area. 

“I ask everyone to wait for official reports and not to invent new versions.”

The head of the pro-Moscow regime, Sergey Aksyonov, said he was on his way to the scene.

Ambulances and air ambulances were sent to the site and information about any victims was still being established, the Ministry of Health of the region reported.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has used the region as a staging ground for its attacks on Ukraine, but it has rarely been a target for Ukrainian forces.

It remains under Russian control, but has not seen the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine.

At least three people were injured in the explosions, Russian media reported.

Among them was a 13-year-old boy with a cut wound on his forearm and a pensioner with a shrapnel wound.

Russian firefighters were kept away from the explosions at Crimea, said reports, and it’s not clear why.

Aksyonov announced an evacuation and a 5km safety zone around the explosions. 

He confirmed the explosions were at a military airfield.

“Ambulance crews and medical aviation are working on the spot, there are enough of them,” he said.

“It is too early to talk about the victims. 

“Among the civilian population, no one has yet applied to medical institutions for help.”

About 30 people were evacuated from houses adjacent to the airfield. 

Some 15 explosions were reported in 30 minutes in the barrage in Crimea.

Detonations were said to be heard continuing to go off in the background.

The 43rd Fighter Aviation Regiment of the PKS of Russia is currently based at the airfield, which mainly consists of Su-30SM, Su-33 aircraft and Su-24M bombers.

A Russian defence source denied incoming missile fire, claiming: ”At around 3.20pm, aircraft ammunition detonated at the ‘Saki’ airfield near the village of Novofedorovka at a rubble storage site.

“No one was injured as a result of the explosion. No aviation equipment at the airfield was damaged.

“Measures are being taken to extinguish the resulting fire and investigate the cause of the explosion. 

“According to the report from the site, there was no fire impact on the collapsed ammunition storage area at the airfield.”

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