Ukraine is not taking responsibility for explosions at a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, suggesting partisans might have been involved.
Mykhail Podolyak, asked by the Dozhd online television channel whether Kyiv was taking responsibility, replied: “Of course not. What do we have to do with this?”
Earlier, he appeared to suggest the strike could herald a new phase of the conflict.
Podolyak said that Kyiv’s long-term goal was “demilitarisation of the Russian Federation”. He added: “The future of the Crimea is to be a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique nature and a world resort. Not a military base for terrorists. It is just the beginning.”
Ukraine’s defence ministry said it could not determine the cause of the explosions but added, sardonically, that people should have regard for the rules of fire safety and “the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places”.
A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea has been damaged by several large explosions, killing at least one person.
Multiple social media videos showed explosions and clouds emerging from the Saky military base in Novofedorivka on the western coast of Crimea on Tuesday afternoon, prompting questions about how a location more than 100 miles (160km) from the frontline could have been attacked.
Russia’s defence ministry told the RIA Novosti news agency that “several aviation munitions detonated” in a storage area. It is not clear whether it had been targeted by a long-range Ukrainian missile strike.
Russian tourists holidaying on beaches nearby could be seen leaving in fear. It is one of few occasions that the peninsula, occupied by Russia since 2014, has been directly affected by the latest fighting. Local people told one Russian news site that explosions went on for an hour.
Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed head of occupied Crimea, said one person had died. Earlier, he had filmed a video statement near the site, with smoke rising in the distance, saying that ambulance crews and medics were on the scene.
Russian forces occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine are preparing to connect the plant to Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and are damaging it by reorienting its electricity production, Ukrainian operator Energoatom warned.
Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and was occupied by Russia early in its invasion.
Energoatom president Petro Kotin told Reuters news agency that Russia wanted to connect the plant to its grid, a technically difficult process that requires the facility to be severed from the Ukrainian system before it can be gradually connected to the Russian one.
Their plan is to damage all the lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. After that it will not be connected to the Ukrainian power system,” he said.
Kotin also told Ukrainian television and Interfax news agency:
The Russian military present at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are implementing the program of [Russian operator] Rosatom aimed at connecting the plant to the Crimean electricity grid.
To do this, you must first damage the power lines of the plant connected to the Ukrainian energy system. From August 7 to 9, the Russians have already damaged three power lines. At the moment, the plant is operating with only one production line, which is an extremely dangerous way of working.
When the last production line is disconnected, the plant will be powered by generators running on diesel. Everything will then depend on their reliability and fuel stocks.”
The process of de-energisation of the plant in preparation to connect to Russia would be extremely dangerous, Kotin warned.
At the ZNPP, we are already very close to this first stage of Fukushima-1, because there is only one line. As soon as it is turned off, the station will switch to diesel, and after that everything will depend on the reliability of their work and the sufficiency of the fuel that is there for diesel engines at the ZNPP.”
Kotin also spoke with CNN, reiterating his claims that the ultimate plan of the Russians is to disconnect the plant from powering Ukraine and connect it to the grid to power occupied Crimea.
If there is no connection to the grid, then you cannot provide electricity from the outside, then the diesel generators will start. But everything will depend on the reliability of those generators. … This is a dangerous situation, because if those stop you could have a disaster of melting nuclear materials,” he said, comparing the potential fallout to the Fukishima disaster in Japan.
If the situation worsens, we need to think about our population at the plant. We are planning on how, during war conditions, we will be able to evacuate the personnel.
Great release of radioactivity could happen from there. There could be a cloud, a radioactive cloud.”
Located not far from the Crimean peninsula, the plant has six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors, capable of supplying power for four million homes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday raised the spectre of nuclear disaster after strikes on the plant.
And UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that any attack on a nuclear plant would be “suicidal”.
“I hope that those attacks will end, and at the same time I hope that the IAEA will be able to access the plant,” he said Monday.
Recent fighting around the plant has prompted the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to warn of the “very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while.
Ukraine has denied responsibility for explosions at a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, suggesting partisans might have been involved.
Meanwhile, Russian forces occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine are preparing to connect the plant to Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and are damaging it by reorienting its electricity production, Ukrainian operator Energoatom warned.
It is 7.30am in Ukraine. Here is everything you might have missed:
A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea has been damaged by several large explosions, killing at least one person. It was not immediately clear whether it had been targeted by a long-range Ukrainian missile strike. In his nightly address, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, did not discuss who was behind the attacks but vowed to “liberate” Crimea, saying: “This Russian war against Ukraine and against the entire free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation.” An adviser to the president, Mikhail Podolyak, said Ukraine was not taking responsibility for the explosions, suggesting partisans might have been involved.
The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power firm warned of the “very high” risks from shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south and said it was vital Kyiv regains control over the facility in time for winter. Energoatom’s chief, Petro Kotin, told Reuters in an interview that last week’s Russian shelling had damaged three lines that connect the Zaporizhzhia plant to the Ukrainian grid and that Russia wanted to connect the facility to its grid.
The leaders of Estonia and Finland want fellow European countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens, saying they should not be able to take holidays in Europe while the Russian government carries out a war in Ukraine. The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, wrote on Tuesday on Twitter that “visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right” and that it was “time to end tourism from Russia now”, the Associated Press reported.
US president Joe Biden on Tuesday signed documents endorsing Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato, the most significant expansion of the military alliance since the 1990s as it responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reports.
The US state department has approved $89m worth of assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for a year, Reuters reported.
The total number of grain-carrying ships to leave Ukrainian ports under a UN brokered deal to ease the global food crisis has now reached 12, with the two latest ships which left on Tuesday headed for Istanbul and Turkey.
Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad has been struggling with quotas imposed by the EU for sanctioned goods that it can import across Lithuania from mainland Russia or Belarus, the region’s governor admitted. Lithuania infuriated Moscow in June by banning the land transit of goods such as concrete and steel to Kaliningrad after EU sanctions on them came into force, Reuters reported.
Russia has launched an Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan amid concerns it could be used for battlefield surveillance in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Iran has denied that the Khayyam satellite, which was delivered into orbit onboard a Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur cosmodrome, would ever be under Russian control. But the Washington Post previously reported that Moscow told Tehran it “plans to use the satellite for several months, or longer, to enhance its surveillance of military targets” in Ukraine, according to two US officials.