kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — The world’s attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine turned Tuesday to the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea, where a mysterious fire and multiple explosions at an ammunition warehouse injured two people, the second incident in a week hitting Russian interests in the region.
Some 2,000 people were evacuated from the area, according to the local governor. Videos of the fire and detonations shared on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising from the flames, and explosions could be heard in the background.
“Russian-occupied Crimea is warehouse explosions and a high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” said a cryptic tweet from Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who stopped short of claiming Ukrainian responsibility for the incident.
The fire and several detonations shook the town of Mayskoye, in the Dzhankoi district, on Tuesday morning, according to Russian media. kyiv echoed the reports.
“The morning near Dzhankoi began with explosions. A reminder: Crimea as a normal country is the Black Sea, mountains, leisure and tourism,” Podolyak wrote, referring to the time before Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a fire had broken out in “a temporary ammunition storage place of one of the military units.”
“As a result of the fire, the stored ammunition exploded,” the ministry said, saying it was initially unclear what had caused the fire.
Dzhankoi district is in northern Crimea, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Kherson region in southern Ukraine but controlled by Russia. kyiv has carried out several attacks in the region against Russian army supply routes and ammunition depots.
Russian-appointed Crimean Governor Sergei Aksyonov said two people had been injured and local residents were being evacuated from the area as ammunition explosions continued.
Aksyonov said some residential buildings had been damaged near the fire site and some 2,000 people had evacuated nearby areas. According to Russian media, there was also damage to railway lines passing through Mayskoye.
The governor indicated that all trains would stop in the town of Vladislavovka, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Mayskoye, and passengers could continue their journeys by bus.
Last week, a series of explosions occurred at the Saki air base, near the town of Novofyodorovka in Crimea. The Russian military attributed the explosions to an accidental detonation of ammunition at the site, but the incident appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack. kyiv said the blasts had destroyed nine Russian planes.
Ukrainian authorities at the time avoided claiming responsibility for the explosions, although they scoffed at the Russian explanation that a careless smoker could have caused the event. Analysts also said that the explanation did not make sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to hit the Saki base.
The Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, is of enormous strategic and symbolic importance to both sides. The Kremlin’s demands that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia have been one of its main conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has promised to expel Russian forces from the peninsula and other occupied territories.