Fire at ammo depot in Russia sends villagers fleeing

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

At the same time, US President Joe Biden’s administration is readying about $US800 million of additional military aid to Ukraine, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Meanwhile, 17 people were killed and 42 wounded in two separate Russian attacks on the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said on Thursday.

Five rockets also hit the city early on Friday killing at least one person, he said.

People help evacuate an elderly man from an area near the site of explosion at an ammunition storage of the Russian army in Crimea.Credit:AP

At least four explosions hit near a major Russian military airport on the Moscow-controlled Crimean Peninsula on Thursday, three sources said. The sources said the explosions were near Russia’s Belbek military airport, north of the Black Sea fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol.

The sources said the blasts occurred in the vicinity of the Belbek base, north of Sevastopol.

The governor of Sevastopol, citing what he called preliminary information, said Russian anti-aircraft forces had downed a Ukrainian drone.

“There is no damage. No one was hurt,” said Mikhail Razvozhayev, writing on Telegram.

Footage posted to a Ukrainian news-gathering site showed what appeared to be a rocket being fired into the night sky and the sound of at least two explosions. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the veracity of the footage.

Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, is an important supply line for what President Vladimir Putin calls his special military operation in Ukraine.

Ukraine has hinted it orchestrated other blasts over the last 10 days at other Russian installations in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

On Thursday, the inhabitants of two villages in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border were evacuated after a nearby ammunition storage depot caught fire but no one was hurt, an official said.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, said in a statement that emergency services were investigating the cause of the fire near the settlements of Timonovo and Soloti, 15km from Ukraine. He did not give details.

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A popular Ukrainian news website posted a video it said showed a large ball of flame erupting from the base. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the video was genuine.

Russia on Tuesday blamed saboteurs for orchestrating a series of explosions at an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, further to the south. Last week blasts ripped through a Crimean air base, which Moscow at the time said was caused by an accident.

After months in which Russian forces made modest territorial gains in heavy fighting in the east since its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, front lines have been comparatively static for weeks.

The government in Kyiv has said it was preparing for a counter-offensive to recapture a swathe of southern territory.

Gladkov has in previous months blamed Ukrainian forces for a series of blasts in and around Belgorod, which is around 650km south of Moscow.

Reuters, AP

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