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Explosions in Crimea and Russia’s Security Vulnerability

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On August 16, 2022, a large-scale explosion took place in the military warehouses in the village of Maiskoye in the Dzhankoi Region of Crimea. Following the explosion, the railway near Dzhankoi was out of service, in addition a substation and buildings were damaged. According to media reports, there is a large military garrison with an airport inherited from the Soviet Union in the region, which started to be restructured after 2014. Some sources point out that this airport may have been hit as well.[1] On the same day, another emergency case occurred in the vicinity of the village of Gvardeisky, near the military airport of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. It was stated that power lines, power plants, railway tracks and buildings were damaged after this incident.

Although the Russian Ministry of Defense first announced that the cause of the explosions in the Dzhankoi region was “a fire caused by the temporary ammunition in one of the military units”, it was later stated that the incident was a sabotage.[2] Declaring a state of emergency, the so-called Head of the Crimean Administration, Sergei Aksyonov, announced that two civilians were injured and approximately 2,000 people were evacuated from the region as a result of these explosions.[3]

A week before the events, there was an explosion at the military airport in Novofedorovka. Making a statement about this explosion that took place on August 9, 2022, Aksyonov stated that the northern regions of Crimea harbor a high terrorist risk and that the “terrorist threat” extends to the strategic facilities, especially the administrative institutions of the region.[4]

There are comments that the Ukrainian Army may be behind sabotage events such as the destruction of ammunition depots, weapons, logistics facilities, power lines and transportation facilities. However, Ukraine did not confirm or deny any involvement in these events. In addition, on August 16, 2022, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky issued a decree on the establishment of a structure called “Consultative Council on the Recovery of Crimea from Occupation and its Reintegration with Ukraine.” Regarding the subject, Zelensky said that, “I held a meeting about the preparations for the Crimean Platform. Today, an advisory council has been established on the de-occupation of Crimea.”[5]

The Crimean Platform Summit was held in Kiev for the first time on August 23, 2021, with the initiative of Ukraine. At the meeting, the issue of rescuing and reclaiming Crimea from occupation was discussed. More than 40 countries and international organizations participated in the event. Moscow, on the other hand, described this meeting as an “anti-Russian and unfriendly event.”

Igor Strelkov, who took an active role in the process of Russia’s intervention in the Donbas Region in 2014 and declared himself as the Minister of Defense of the region, has expressed that the explosion that took place in a large warehouse near Dzhankoi on August 16, 2022, may have been caused by “kamikaze unmanned aerial vehicles” belonging to Ukraine.[6]

According to retired Russian Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev, Kyiv is trying to destroy important logistics routes, power lines and other energy facilities in the Crimea and Kherson region to cause discontent among the population. Netkachev claimed that Kiev was trying to acquire high-precision missiles with a range of 300 km from the US and NATO, and if it procured these missiles, it could hit the Russian troops on the peninsula, including targets in the Crimea. In addition, according to Netkachev, Ukraine is preparing to produce its own drones especially.[7]

According to some sources, British military intelligence is behind the attacks in Crimea.[8] It was also stated that a plan to organize an attack on the Crimean bridge was discussed between London and Kyiv. However, the UK has officially declared that it does not have such information and has denied such accusation.[9]

On the other hand, there are also comments that the attacks on Crimea are part of Kiev’s plan to reclaim the region. For example, on August 15, 2022, the Ukrainian Parliament decided to increase the defense and security budget by $7.3 billion to $32.55 billion.[10]

Crimea is a region where security is provided against threats from Russia. One of the aims of the intervention in the Donbas Region of Ukraine in 2014 was to keep the conflicts in Ukraine away from Crimea. Since that year, Moscow has acted in accordance with this plan and expectation. However, after Russia took the decision to seize other parts of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Kiev’s interest in Crimea and thus in ensuring the territorial integrity recognized by international law came to the fore again.

Although Ukraine officially states that it is not behind the explosions, the fact that Moscow calls it “terrorism and sabotage” indicates that the attacks were carried out from the outside, or that is how Moscow wants to see the developments. On the other hand, although it is not clear who the perpetrator of the attacks is, the fact that the attacks can be carried out has revealed some important results.

First, the attacks indicate that Crimea is not as safe a place for Russia as it used to be. Moreover, it seems inevitable that the image of “Russia cannot ensure the security of the region” is formed. For this reason, it can be predicted that the confidence of the people in Crimea in Russia will decrease and therefore the reaction will increase. Therefore, those who are satisfied with the fact that Crimea is under Russian control may begin to question their thoughts. It is also possible that support for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine will decrease due to concerns that conflicts in other parts of Ukraine will spread to Crimea.

The second conclusion concerns the military defense of Crimea. Russia has important military installations in Crimea, and they are protected by defense systems. The fact that the attacks could not be eliminated reveals the weakness of Russia in the field of defense. This reveals the idea that Crimea cannot be defended adequately. For example, shortly before the attacks, plans were being made to celebrate the Day of the Russian Navy in Sevastopol. However, a large explosion occurred in front of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters and this event was canceled after people were injured. If this explosion took place under the influence of Ukrainian missiles, it can be said that Russian air defense systems could not adequately protect the Black Sea Fleet. In addition, these attacks may not have been carried out by missiles, but by unmanned aerial vehicles flown from anywhere in Crimea. But this would also mean the weakness of intelligence.

[1] “Местные жители сообщают о клубах дыма у военного аэродрома под Симферополем”, Kommersant, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/5513970, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[2] “Причиной детонации боеприпасов в Крыму стала диверсия”, Ria Novosti, https://ria.ru/20220816/vzryv-1809971243.html, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[3] “В Крыму ввели режим ЧС регионального характера”, Ria Novosti, https://ria.ru/20220816/rezhim-1809990695.html, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[4] “В Крыму продлили высокий уровень террористической опасности”, Ria Novosti, https://ria.ru/20220809/krym-1808441916.html?in=t, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[5] “Зеленский заявил о создании “консультативного совета по деоккупации Крыма”“, Ria Novosti, https://ria.ru/20220816/krym-1809875727.html, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[6]“Гиркин заявил, что на севере Крыма могли ударить беспилотниками-камикадзе”, Kırım.Realy, https://ru.krymr.com/a/news-girkin-bespilotniki/31991165.html, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[7] Ibid.

[8] “За диверсией в Крыму могут стоять члены британского спецназа SAS”, Avio.Pro, https://avia.pro/news/za-diversiey-v-krymu-mogut-stoyat-chleny-britansk”, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[9] “Британия опровергла планы уничтожить Крымский мост”, Gazeta.Ru, https://lenta.ru/news/2022/08/15/most_uk/, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[10] “Парламент Украины проголосовал за увеличение военного бюджета на $7,3 млрд”, Tass, https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/15473995?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=google.com&utm_referrer=google.com, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

Dr. Sabir ASKEROĞLU
Dr. Sabir ASKEROĞLU
Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.