In their latest intelligence report, the MoD said that due to a series of explosions at the Saky airbase, the Russian fleet’s naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded – with the incident likely to prompt the Russian military to revise its threat perception.
The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 14, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke rose over the coastline nearby. Video showed shattered windows and holes in the brickwork of some buildings.
The base is at least 125 miles from the closest Ukrainian position – but Russian forces have used the base to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice.
It is unclear who is responsible for the attack – with the base out of the range of the missiles supplied by the US for use in the Himars systems.
“On 9 August 2022, explosions occurred at the Russian-operated Saky military airfield in western Crimea.
"The original cause of the blasts is unclear, but the large mushroom clouds visible in eyewitness video were almost certainly from the detonation of up to four uncovered munition storage areas.
"At least five Su-24 FENCER fighter-bombers and three Su-30 FLANKER H multi-role jets were almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged in the blasts. Saky’s central dispersal area has suffered serious damage, but the airfield probably remains serviceable."
The update continued: “The loss of eight combat jets represents a minor proportion of the overall fleet of aircraft Russia has available to support the war. However, Saky was primarily used as a base for the aircraft of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet
"The fleet’s naval aviation capability is now significantly degraded. The incident will likely prompt the Russian military to revise its threat perception. Crimea has probably been seen as a secure rear-area.”
Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for both sides. The Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine recognise Crimea as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.