Large explosions rock Russian military air base in Crimea

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Powerful explosions rocked a Russian air base in Crimea and sent towering clouds of smoke over the landscape Tuesday in what may mark an escalation of the war in Ukraine. At least one person was killed and several others were wounded, authorities said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the Saki base on the Black Sea had been shelled and said instead that munitions had blown up there. But Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that it was hit by Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles.

Videos posted on social networks showed sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon from multiple points, accompanied by loud booms. Crimea Today News said on Telegram that witnesses reported fire on a runway and damage to nearby homes as a result of what it said were dozens of blasts.

Russia’s state news agency Tass quoted an unidentified ministry source as saying the explosions’ primary cause appeared to be a “violation of fire safety requirements.” The ministry said no warplanes were damaged.