UK says Russian airbase in Crimea a 'legitimate target' for Ukraine to attack -

6 October, Thursday

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UK says Russian airbase in Crimea a 'legitimate target' for Ukraine to attack

Ukraine's defence minister suggested the blasts were caused by cigarette butts

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The airbase in Crimea that was rocked by explosions is a “legitimate target” for Ukraine, the UK’s defence secretary has said, despite Kyiv maintaining its silence.
Ben Wallace disregarded Russia’s explanations for the blasts, which killed one and injured more than a dozen, saying the fireballs could not have been caused by “someone dropping a cigarette”.
The Ukrainian air force said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a series of blasts at the Saky airfield earlier this week, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the incident.
Moscow denied that the site had come under attack by the Ukrainians, with a defence official telling the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency the main cause of the explosions were “a violation of fire safety requirements”. The source insisted there were “no signs, evidence, much less facts of intentional impacts on munitions with the aim of detonation”.
Ukrainian officials have hinted that their forces were involved and a top presidential aide said the blasts were “just the beginning” of efforts to reclaim Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov suggested ― to the amusement of many on social media ― that discarded cigarette butts had sparked the blasts.
Mr Wallace said it is clear that the explosions at the base were not caused by “someone dropping a cigarette”, and dismissed Russia’s excuses for the blasts.
“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,” the defence secretary told the BBC.
“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.”
An aerial view of an airfield at Russia's Saki military base, which was rocked by a series of explosions on Tuesday. AP
Mr Wallace said he believes anyone’s “manual of war” would consider the site on the Crimean Peninsula to be a “legitimate target” for Ukraine to hit.
Mr Wallace said it was “very early days” and the UK would “see what information comes out” about the incident at Saky.
Asked if the base was a legitimate target for the Ukrainians to strike, Mr Wallace said: “First and foremost, Russia has illegally invaded, not just in 2014, but now Ukrainian territory.
“Ukraine, under United Nations articles, is perfectly entitled to defend its territory and take what action it needs to against an invading force.
“So, is it legitimate? It’s absolutely legitimate for Ukraine to take lethal force, if necessary, but take force in order to regain not only its territory, but also to push back its invader.
“And that air force base has been used by Russian air forces to bomb Ukrainian targets. So I think in anybody’s sort of manual of war it would be a legitimate target.”
If confirmed, a Ukrainian strike on the airbase, at least 200 kilometres from the nearest front lines, would be a significant show of strength by Kyiv in the war.
Satellite imagery showed apparently extensive damage to buildings and aircraft at the base, which Russia has used to support its invasion of its neighbour.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated the air force’s statement that nine Russian planes had been destroyed at Saky. “In just one day, the occupiers lost 10 combat aircraft, nine in Crimea and one more in the direction of Zaporizhzhia,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. More Russian armoured vehicles, ammunition warehouses and logistics routes were also destroyed, he said.
People living in occupied territories should do all they can to aid Ukraine’s security services and military in expelling Russian forces, Mr Zelenskyy said. Defence ministers from nations supporting Ukraine who are meeting in Copenhagen on Thursday will discuss the provision of more weapons to Ukrainian forces, he said.
“Only by ensuring Russia’s defeat on the battlefield, only by Russian losses ― military, political, economic ― can the return of security for Ukraine and the whole of Europe be brought closer,” the president said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defence industry is suffering significant setbacks because of the war in Ukraine, the British Army said, and is “highly unlikely to be capable of fulfilling some export orders for armoured fighting vehicles”.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the effects of the West’s sanctions on the Russian economy, coupled with the high demand for army vehicles by Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine, mean output is low.
“Russia has long considered the defence industry to be one of its most important export successes,” the MoD wrote in an update on Twitter. “However, its military industrial capacity is now under significant strain, and the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with Russian forces’ poor performance in the Ukraine war.”


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