Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said late Monday that a strike destroyed Russian “Kalibr” cruise missiles that were being transported by train in the town of Dzhankoi, in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Ukrainian authorities did not directly claim responsibility for the strike but said it serves to further “demilitarize Russia and prepare the Crimean peninsula for de-occupation.”
Sergei Askyonov, the Russian-installed head of the annexed peninsula, confirmed there was a strike and the region’s air defense system was activated. One person was injured and two buildings were damaged, Askyonov said.
Amateur video geolocated by CNN shows a large explosion and resulting fireball. An individual is heard saying off-camera the strike hit the train station. However, the video did not clearly show what had been hit and CNN hasn’t been able to confirm the exact location of the strike.
Two of Russia’s most important military airfields in Crimea are located in Dzhankoi and Gvardeyskoye, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in 2022.
“Dzhankoi is also a key road and rail junction that plays an important role in supplying Russia’s operations in southern Ukraine,” it said.
Crimea also hosts an important port and a major naval base for Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the city of Sevastopol. Some of Russia’s most important warships have been docked there, including surface ships equipped with cruise missiles.
The US has previously accused Russia of using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea to hit civilian targets in Ukraine.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2021, Ukraine has launched multiple strikes against Russian positions in Crimea and operations that its military said destroyed Russian Kalibr cruise missiles.
Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have repeatedly vowed to liberate the peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014. Zelensky has previously stressed that for Ukrainians, Crimea is “not just some territory” but “a part of our people, our society.”
The strike follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation. The visit, which also included a stop in Russian-occupied Mariupol, came just days after the International Criminal Court accused the Russian president of committing war crimes in Ukraine and issued a warrant for his arrest over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The ICC charges are the first to be formally lodged against officials in Moscow since it began its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last year. The Kremlin has labeled the ICC’s actions as “outrageous and unacceptable.”
The strike comes as Putin hosts Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow. During a meeting on Monday, Xi told Putin that China and Russia have “similar goals” and he expressed support for Putin to be reelected. The war in Ukraine was raised in the first hours of their meeting, and is expected to be a key point of discussion throughout Xi’s three-day visit.