Half of Russia's Black Sea fleet combat jets out of use after Crimea blasts, official says

Large explosions rocked the Russian military air base in Crimea. Credit: AP

The large explosions that rocked a Russian air base in Crimea earlier this month have put more than half of Russia's Black Sea Fleet naval aviation combat jets out of use, a western intelligence official said on Friday.

Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has used it as a staging ground for attacks on the country since the war began in February.

Ukrainian authorities have vowed to recapture Crimea and other occupied territories.

"They've lost their flagship Moskva, they lost Snake Island, they lost half of their naval aviation package and their military headquarters was struck," the official said about Russia.

They added the "credibility" of Russia's Black Sea Fleet had been "diminished" as a result of the attack.

On recent explosions in Russia, Crimea, and Russian-occupied territory, the official said: "I think we can assume attacks by Ukrainians behind enemy lines."

They went on to say there had been an uptick of attacks behind Russian lines, which they put down to a "combination of incredibly brave people and new capabilities."

Russia is starting to "run out of ammunition," according to the official, who said this "ultimately will start to impair Russia's ability to launch offensives."

They added the war was now in a "different stage," as "both sides have become more conscious that this is a marathon, not a sprint."

The western official also discussed the ongoing situation at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which has been controlled by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion bega.

Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe.

The official at the plant is built to "cope with a civilian airliner flying into it," adding "direct fire is not our concern."

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But they added: "The issue we are concerned about is the water cooling of nuclear reactors. If the grid power supply is disrupted, it pushes them to back up generators. If they fail... we are in a more serious situation."

Ukraine has accused Russia of storing troops and weapons at the plant and using its grounds to launch strikes against Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Ukrainian officials and military analysts say Moscow’s forces have cynically employed the plant as a shield, knowing that the Ukrainians would be hesitant to fire back.

Russia has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused Ukrainian forces of repeatedly shelling the plant.

On Friday, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, accused the US of encouraging Ukraine to attack the plant.

“In case of a technological disaster, its consequences will be felt in every corner of the world,” he said. “Washington, London and their accomplices will bear full responsibility for that."