Ukraine Live Briefing: Russia ‘cannot feel safe in Crimea’ after air base blasts

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saki after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Aug. 9.
Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saki after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Aug. 9. (AP)

A deadly strike on a Russian air base in occupied Crimea was carried out by Ukrainian special forces, a Ukrainian government official told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

In central Ukraine, at least 13 people were killed when Russian strikes hit Dnipropetrovsk overnight, local officials said.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Crimea airfield blast was work of Ukrainian special forces, official says

Key developments

  • Tuesday’s airfield explosion in Crimea was the work of Ukrainian special forces, a Ukrainian official told The Post. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and confirmed Ukraine’s role on the condition of anonymity, did not disclose details of how the attack was carried out. The Ukrainian air force said in a separate statement that nine Russian aircraft were destroyed in the blast, without any claim of responsibility. The attack reportedly killed one person and injured at least 13, including two children.
  • A Ukrainian attack in Crimea would mark a dramatic escalation in the war. It would demonstrate a remarkable ability by Ukrainian forces, or their allies, to strike at Russia far from the front lines. Russia said the blast at the air base was caused by an ammunition explosion. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Post that Ukrainian forces apparently had carried out the strike but did not use a weapon provided by the United States.
  • A day after the attack Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the end of the war “directly depends on the question of the losses that Russia will suffer. The more losses the occupiers suffer, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and guarantee Ukraine’s security.”
  • The Russian TV journalist who staged an on-air protest in March faces criminal charges for allegedly spreading fake information about Russia’s armed forces, her lawyer said. Marina Ovsyannikova was detained and her home was raided, the lawyer wrote, adding that the charges relate to a photograph she posted holding up an antiwar poster on July 15. “More than 350 children died in Ukraine, are these fake?” she wrote in a Wednesday post detailing the house search.

Battlefield updates

  • Pro-Russian separatists accused Ukrainian forces of shelling an industrial site in Donetsk, which led to an ammonia leak and fire. One person died and two people were injured, the Russian group said. Residents within two kilometers were warned to stay inside, away from the irritant.
  • The Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office has opened up an investigation into Wednesday blasts in Bakhmut, Donetsk. According to the office, seven were killed and six injured by Russian shelling and land mines Wednesday. The Donetsk emergency services ministry reiterated a mandatory evacuation call for civilians. By what it called the autumn-winter period, no more than 235,000 people — working in defense and critical infrastructure — should remain in the region. In late February, 1.67 million people lived in Donetsk, according to the Kyiv Post.
  • Tuesday’s Crimea strike demonstrated to the Russians that “they are not invincible anywhere,” said Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister who is now chairman of Ukraine’s Center for Defense Strategies, an independent think tank. “Most importantly, they cannot feel safe in Crimea. They thought they were safe in Crimea, and they thought they were safe at long-range distance.”
  • Russia has “almost certainly established a major new ground forces formation,” dubbed the 3rd Army Corps, to fight in Ukraine, made up of volunteer male troops up to 50 years old and incentivized with cash bonuses, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday in a daily intelligence update. However, it said the new formation is “unlikely to be decisive to the campaign,” given “very limited levels of popular enthusiasm for volunteering for combat in Ukraine.”
  • Overnight Russian strikes in Dnipropetrovsk killed at least 13 people and destroyed more than 20 buildings in the Nikopol district in central Ukraine, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said. According to Reuters, Ukraine accused Russia of exploiting its position and control over the Zaporizhzhia power plant to target neighboring Dnipropetrovsk.
A series of explosions at a Russian air base in occupied Crimea roiled areas of the city of Novofedorivka on Aug. 9. (Video: Storyful)

Global impact

  • Mali’s interim leader, Assimi Goïta, thanked Putin in a phone call for Russia’s “multifaceted support,” according to a Kremlin readout. The two agreed to further step up coordination and discussed possible Russian deliveries to Mali of fuel, food and fertilizer. Putin also expressed hope that a 2023 Russia-Africa Summit held in St. Petersburg would “help promote traditional friendship with all African states.” U.S. officials have raised concerns about Russia’s profile in volatile parts of the continent, including mercenary outfit Wagner Group’s activities in Mali.
  • Hundreds in the Bulgarian capital protested against Russian energy giant Gazprom. The demonstrators vocalized fears that the caretaker government — in place after a pro-Western government collapsed in June — may revert to a Russia-friendly energy stance. “We refuse to be dependent on Gazprom and finance Putin’s outrageous war!” one banner read, reported the AP.
  • The United States “would not want to implement a total ban on all Russians,” a U.S. official told The Post’s Daily 202. A total travel ban would mean denying entry to Russian dissidents and those who have criticized the war, as well as those who are persecuted for politics or sexual orientation, the official said. In an interview with The Post this week, Zelensky called on Western countries to ban all Russian travelers, comments quickly condemned by Russia.
  • In an interview with Russian-state media, China’s ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui calls the United States “the architect and main instigator of the Ukrainian crisis,” comparing Washington’s approach in Ukraine to its support for the self-governing island of Taiwan.
  • The Group of Seven countries demanded Wednesday that Russia return control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia to Ukraine. In a joint statement, the G-7, which includes the United States, also expressed support for a visit to the plant by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, after recent nearby shelling raised fears of a crisis at the facility.

From our correspondents

In the Ukraine war, a battle for the nation’s mineral and energy wealth: After nearly six months of fighting, Moscow’s sloppy war has yielded at least one big reward: expanded control over some of the most mineral-rich lands in Europe. Ukraine harbors some of the world’s largest reserves of titanium and iron ore, fields of untapped lithium, and massive deposits of coal. Collectively, they are worth tens of trillions of dollars.

The lion’s share of those coal deposits, which for decades have powered Ukraine’s critical steel industry, are concentrated in the east, where Moscow has made the most inroads. That’s put them in Russian hands, along with significant amounts of other valuable energy and mineral deposits used for everything from aircraft parts to smartphones, according to an analysis for The Post.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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