Pics show ’20 jets wrecked and $1bn of damage’ after Russian air base blasts

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FRESH satellite images reveal the devastation at a Russian airbase after it was struck by a series of powerful explosions.

Broken and charred remains of Russian fighter jets can be seen at the air force base in occupied Crimea, following a reported Ukrainian airstrike on Tuesday afternoon.

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Saki airbase in Crimea following the devastating alleged airstrikeCredit: Reuters

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The base just before the blast on TuesdayCredit: Reuters

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Up to 20 fighter jets are reported to have been destroyed in the explosions

Russia had previously denied any of its aircraft were damaged in the blast at Saki airbase in Western Crimea, just miles from beaches popular with Russian visitors.

The suspected Ukrainian attack left at least one person dead, up to 20 aeroplanes destroyed, and around $1 billion of damage, according to Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs.

On Wednesday, a clip reportedly taken from the base revealed the scorched remains of a £19m Russian fighter jet destroyed on the base.

Russia has again denied that any aircraft were damaged in the blasts – even refusing to acknowledge that any attack had taken place – bizarrely putting the incident down to an accident caused by an aircraft engine fire.

But photos of the base published by US satellite imaging company Planet Labs show the extent of the destruction at the base, with at least seven fighter jets completely obliterated.

Swathes of scorched earth at the base also appear to show a series of blasts.

At least three large craters can be seen next to jet ammunition storage buildings.

“One way to interpret those craters is precise strikes from a long-range munition,” Elliot Higgins from investigative agency Bellingcat reported.

He added that there were “no impacts visible that look like they could be misses, so either they used very accurate weapons or they got very lucky”.

Officials in Kyiv have so far stopped short of directly claiming responsibility to the attack – but confirmed at least nine planes had been destroyed.

They also mocked one possible excuse suggested by the Kremlin, that the fire was triggered by a carelessly dropped cigarette.

In a sarcastic Facebook post, the ministry said it “cannot establish the cause of the fire, but once again recalls the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places”.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace also poured doubt on the Russian claims, telling the BBC: “We’ve pretty much dismissed most of the Russian, I think, excuses – everything from a cigarette butt, I think was one of them, that might have set off two simultaneous large explosions.

“I think when you just look at the footage of two simultaneous explosions not quite next to each other, and some of the reported damage even by the Russian authorities, I think it’s clear that that’s not something that happens by someone dropping a cigarette.”

Either they used very accurate weapons or they got very lucky

Elliot HigginsBellingcat

Ukraine’s defence ministry later responded to the deadly blast with a video trolling Russians for visiting the beaches in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

In a clip shared on its official Twitter account, it joked that the Russians could have visited Dubai, Turkey, or Cuba, instead of the disputed territory, after dramatic images showed a mushroom cloud rising in the background next to a packed beach.

Tourists were seen fleeing in panic and even crying as plumes of smoke rose over the nearby coastline.

Footage of a nearby resort shows scores of buildings with blown-out windows, while Crimean authorities say at least 250 people have been moved out of their homes and into temporary accommodation.

Miles-long queues of fleeing Russians have been pictured crossing the main border between Crimea and Russia.

But Russian authorities have downplayed the explosions, claiming that no hotels or beaches in Crimea have been affected in the peninsula popular with tourists from Russia.

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Surreal pictures showed the aftermath of the blast miles from a tourist beachCredit: Reuters

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A mushroom cloud rises close to a beach popular with Russian visitorsCredit: AP

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The reported remains of a fighter jet at the airbaseCredit: East2West

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Satellite images taken before the blast in Western CrimeaCredit: AP

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Scorched earth around the base after a reported series of missile strikesCredit: AP

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Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014Credit: Reuters

Saki airbase has been used as a base for countless attacks on the southeast of Ukraine.

It is some 125 miles from the nearest Ukrainian position, beyond the range of most of the country’s long-range munitions – including the infamous US-provided Himars rocket launchers, which can reach targets up to 50 miles away.

ATACMS, a type of missile used in the Himars, can travel up to 190 miles, but the US has insisted that none have been delivered yet.

This suggests they may have struck the base with anti-ship missiles supplied by the West.

The attack has also been put down to possible pro-Ukrainian guerillas working in Crimea.

Russia has demanded Ukraine recognise Crimea as its territory before any ceasefire is agreed.

Hours after the attack, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that the war could not end until the liberation of Crimea.

It came just hours before at least eight blasts were reported in neighbouring Belarus at the Zyabrovka airbase, used regularly by Russian military aircraft.

Belarus – a close ally of Moscow – has also downplayed the reports of explosions on Wednesday night, with the country’s defence ministry putting them down to an engine fire.

The base is around 30km (18 miles) from the Belarus-Ukraine border.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko permitted Putin’s troops into his country months before the war broke out.

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