Why Crimea is so important in the Russia-Ukraine war

Smoke rises after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military air base near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Aug. 9. (Obtained by Reuters)

A series of blasts at Russian military sites in Crimea this month has put a spotlight on the contested peninsula, which until now had been spared the heavy fighting of the nearly six-month-long war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have told The Washington Post that the explosions — including those at two air bases and an ammunition depot — were the work of Ukraine’s special forces seeking to disrupt Russia’s supply lines. Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and has occupied it since.

The Black Sea peninsula, which is about the size of Massachusetts, has long been fought-over by the world’s great powers. For years, it has been a point of contention between Moscow and Kyiv.

As it emerges as a new battlefront in the war, here’s what you need to know about Crimea and its strategic importance.