Ukraine Situation Report: Huge Explosions Rock Crimean Ammo Depot

The latest Ukrainian drone strikes reportedly hit a sizable logistics junction north of the occupied peninsula’s capital of Simferopol.

byStetson Payne|
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A series of explosions at an ammunition depot near the Crimean town of Octiabrskoe led to evacuations amid several Ukrainian strikes on the occupied peninsula.

Towering explosions shook what was reportedly a Russian ammunition depot and railyard in the town north of Simferopol, capital of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. An air base near the town was also reportedly attacked.

Of particular note, the attacks brought rail traffic on the state-owned Crimean Railway to a halt, including the Kerch Strait Bridge. The rail line connecting Simferopol (as well as western port cities of Sevastopol and Yevpatoriya) runs north through Octiabrskoe to Dzhankoi, then back southeast to Feodosia and the Kerch Strait.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has since confirmed a Ukrainian kamikaze drone struck a Black Sea Fleet ammunition and fuel depot in the area, leading to an evacuation of all residents within 5,000 meters of the fire.

Saturday’s explosions are the most recent in an ongoing series of strikes as Ukraine targets Russian infrastructure, in particular the transport and storage of supplies. Between drones in the air and at sea, cruise missiles, and the prospect of special operations deep behind enemy lines, Ukraine continue to focus on priority logistical targets. After all, fighting at the frontline is only made easier when the enemy can neither resupply nor effectively reinforce its myriad defensive positions.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

THE LATEST

In its latest intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that despite Russian mil-blogger Igor Girkin’s arrest, “The taboo against unmasked criticism of the Putin regime has been significantly weakened.”

The update noted Girkin had begun to directly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin in the days before his arrest. The arrest itself “is likely to infuriate fellow members of the mil-blogger community - and elements within the serving military - who largely see Girkin as an astute military analyst and patriot.”

Girkin, a former intelligence officer and Russian nationalist who participated in both the fighting in the Donbas and later at the frontline in 2022, was arrested July 21, 2023, on “extremism” charges. The update also assessed that Girkin’s escalated rhetoric was likely another ripple effect from Wagner Group PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s abortive coup.

The Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyofWar) echoed this assessment, going further to say Girkin’s arrest could “be the public manifestation of a shifting balance of power among Kremlin factions, possibly to the detriment of the FSB, in which Girkin had served.”

Poland has summoned the Russian ambassador after Putin’s veiled threats and wild false-flag claims in a Russian Security Council meeting this week. Warsaw has already ordered additional troops toward its eastern border with Belarus on account of both Putin’s remarks and the growing Wagner PMC presence in the Russian vassal state.

Satellite imagery shows the Russian-exiled mercenary group has arrived in force at a former Belarusian encampment near the village of Tsel, as well as a large training ground along the Polish border near Brest. Imagery shows hundreds of vehicles and other military equipment in the camps.

State-run Russian news agency TASS reported this week that several T-14 Armata main battle tanks saw combat with units of the Southern Military District before being withdrawn for additional testing. The report cited “a source in the Russian defense industry,” but there has been no official confirmation on the deployment from Moscow. There have been previous claims that Russia's much-hyped newest tank, of which they have only bought very few of, has been tested in Ukraine and Syria with no visual proof to back it up.

Looking at the broader frontline situation, ISW reports Ukrainian counteroffensive operations continued in three sectors, with gains made July 21 along the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk administrative border, as well as the flanks of Bakhmut. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense claims an RIA Novosti war correspondent, Rostislav Zhuravlev, was killed on the Zaporizhzhia frontline in a Ukrainian cluster munition attack. The War Zone cannot independently verify the circumstances of Zhuravlev’s death, but it should be noted he was previously among the combatants that took part in the early days of the War in the Donbas, capturing government buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk.

To the north, Russian troops have made some advances along the Kreminna-Svatove line, particularly near Kupyansk and Kreminna.

One of Ukraine’s M-55S tanks, a Slovenian-donated T-55 variant equipped with a NATO-standard 105mm L7 cannon, was destroyed in fighting near Kreminna, as video from an overhead drone shows. The crew can be seen attempting to conceal the old tank with nearby foliage before a series of strikes destroy the armored vehicle.

In video remarks to international security leaders at the Aspen Security Forum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the counteroffensive will soon “gain pace,” Financial Times reported

“We are approaching a moment when relevant actions can gain pace because we are already going through some mines locations and we are demining these areas,” Zelensky said.

Even as the counteroffensive continues, Russia is still constructing fortifications behind the frontline. At the same time, The Washington Post reports Ukraine is now the world’s most heavily mined country, with a swath of the country as big as Florida contaminated with land mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO).

Lastly, there’s a rather adorable video of a Ukrainian working dog, a Belgian Malinois, doing pushups with its handler.

That’s all for now. We will update this story when there is more to report on Ukraine.

Contact the author: stetson.payne@thewarzone.com

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