Russia’s Saki Air Base is located 120 miles away from the frontlines. It lost 10 warplanes and other buildings in an explosion on Tuesday. But, it remains a mystery as to how this happened.
It is difficult to find out what really happened. Even witnesses often tell conflicting stories.
The airfield was home to the Russian Navy’s 43rd Independent Naval Attack Aviation Regiment, which saw massive explosions. You could see miles away the smoke. Satellite photos reveal that Russia lost at most half a dozen aircraft including Su-30 Flanker fighters, and the older Su-24 Fencer fighter/bombers.
Many buildings seem to have been damaged or destroyed, but contrary to earlier reports, the fuel depot building and weapons storage building appear unaffected.
You can see large areas of grassy land that have been burnt black.
If you are interested in seeing satellite imagery, the Planesandstuff blog provides helpful captions and satellite imagery.
Saki (sometimes spelled Saky), was believed to be impossible to reach by Ukraine’s missile forces. It’s also far too far behind the lines for artillery to hit.
What happened or may have happened is what makes things really interesting.
Russia claimed at first that no aircraft was destroyed. However, commercially available satellite imagery quickly proved these claims false. One thing is certain: Moscow was taken by surprise by the attack, if it was indeed an attack. It even caught everyone by surprise.
Perhaps that is why the Kremlin could not get its story right:
Russian media shared contradictory stories. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that munitions were detonated at an airfield storage site due to negligence and not an attack on August 9. It also claimed that no aircraft was damaged. Rybar, a Russian milblogger, claimed that the explosion did not result from a missile strike on August 10. He suggested that the explosions could have been caused by negligence or non-compliance to safety regulations.
Russian messaging is, to their credit, often better than the confused hash.
However, even though Moscow may be playing it slow this time around, Kyiv is being choosy.
The New York Times reported Wednesday, that a senior Ukrainian official claimed that the “blasts” were an attack that was carried out with the aid of partisans. However, he did not give any details.
A second Ukrainian military official said to the New York Times that the mystery weapons were of Ukrainian origin. The HIMARS-launched missiles provided by the U.S. to Ukraine do not have the range to reach Saki. However, nothing in Ukraine’s inventory can prove this.
However, the Ukrainian military has not yet acknowledged any involvement.
According to The KyivPost, Russia moved S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems into the region in response to the attack.
It was an attack, not self-inflicted.
Perhaps S-300s are actually being deployed there. Perhaps the Kyiv Post is trying to incite discord among Russian forces by making them seem more vulnerable than they really are.
So many questions. There are so few answers. There are so many explosions.
It’s also known as the fog of war.