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At least 9 Russian warplanes destroyed in Crimea strikes, Ukraine says

Ukraine’s air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in massive explosions at an air base in Crimea amid speculation they were the result of a Ukrainian attack that would represent a significant escalation in the war.

Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts — or that any attack took place.

Ukrainian officials have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while poking fun at Russia’s explanation that munitions at the Saki air base caught fire and blew up and also underscoring the importance of the peninsula that Moscow annexed eight years ago.

Read more: Explosions at Russian air base spark debate over whether it was Ukrainian attack

In his nightly video address several hours after the blasts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to retake the peninsula, saying that “this Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation.”

On Wednesday, Russian authorities sought to downplay the blasts, saying all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians. The explosions, which killed one person and wounded 13, sent tourists fleeing in panic as plumes of smoke towered over the nearby coastline. They knocked out windows and caused other damage in some apartment buildings.

Russian warplanes have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine’s south on short notice, and Ukrainian social networks were abuzz with speculation that Ukrainian-fired long-range missiles hit the base.

Officials in Moscow have long warned Ukraine that any attack on Crimea would trigger massive retaliation, including strikes on “decision-making centres” in

Russia Volodymyr Zelenskyy

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