Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of prolonging the war in Ukraine when explosions rocked a Russian military facility on the Kremlin-controlled Crimean peninsula.

FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alyaksei NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP

Kyiv – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of starting a war in Ukraine when explosions rocked a Russian military facility on the Kremlin-controlled Crimean peninsula.

Meanwhile, the first UN-chartered ship loaded with grain has left Ukraine for Africa following a landmark deal brokered by Turkey and the UN to end the global food crisis.

“The situation in Ukraine shows that the United States is trying to prolong this conflict,” Putin said, speaking at the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow.

Washington is “using the people of Ukraine as cannon fodder,” he said, lashing out at the United States for supplying arms to Kiev.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February, expecting weak military resistance and hoping for a lightning-quick takeover that would topple the government in Kiev within hours.

But after failing to capture the capital, the Russian military instead entrenched itself in a prolonged bout of attrition due to the sprawling front line in the east and south.

The United States has provided key economic and military support to Kiev, in particular by supplying Ukraine with high-precision, long-range artillery that has allowed it to strike Russian security facilities deep inside territory controlled by Moscow.

Huge fireballs burst into flames at a site in Crimea early Tuesday where ammunition was temporarily stored, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, images posted on social media showed.

The Ministry of Defense reported that the fire started around 6:15 a.m. local time (03:15 GMT) at a temporary military shelter near the village of Maiskoye in the Dzhankoy district, resulting in the detonation of ammunition.

Tuesday’s blasts came a week after at least one person was killed and five others were injured in similar explosions at a Russian airbase in Crimea.

Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility for any of the incidents in Crimea, but high-ranking officials and the military hint at Ukraine’s involvement.


The assistant to the President of Ukraine, Mykhailo Padalyak, said on Tuesday that the latest explosions in Dzhankoy were a “reminder” that “Russian-occupied Crimea is a warehouse explosion and a high risk of death by invaders and thieves.”

He said the bombings were “demilitarization in action” – using the same term Russia used to justify its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and used the Black Sea region as a staging ground for its invasion.

Meanwhile, in eastern Donbass, where most of the fighting took place, Ukraine said Russia had launched a “massive” offensive from an oil refinery in the recently captured town of Lisichansk in Luhansk region.

The Ukrainian presidency reported that one woman was killed and two others were injured in the Donetsk region, which together with Luhansk makes up the industrial Donbas region, which is now largely controlled by Russian forces.

Kyiv and Moscow have also traded accusations over a series of strikes this month at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky warned that a “catastrophe” at the Russian-controlled facility would threaten all of Europe.


In the Black Sea, a ship chartered by the United Nations departed on Tuesday from the Ukrainian port of Pudnyy and will go to Djibouti “for delivery to Ethiopia”, the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine said.

The MV Brave Commander, loaded with 23,000 tons of wheat, was able to leave the country after a deal struck last month lifted Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through naval mines laid by Kiev.

Ukraine said that it hopes that there will be two or three similar deliveries soon.

The Russian invasion drove an economic, political and cultural wedge between Moscow and European capitals.

The prime minister of former Soviet-ruled Estonia said Tuesday that her government has decided to remove all Soviet-era monuments from public places in the country.

“As symbols of repression and Soviet occupation, they have become a source of growing social tension – at a time when we must minimize the risk to public order,” Kaya Kalas wrote on Twitter.

The move follows similar trends in Poland and Ukraine, which began seriously tearing down statues of Soviet leaders after Russian-backed separatists seized control of parts of the east in 2014.

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