Huge fireballs and smoke clouds erupted at the site in the eastern part of the annexed Crimean peninsula. The incessant explosions could be heard from at least 13 miles away.
There were many dead and wounded at the military training ground epicentre of the explosions, reported Ukrainian channel Crimean Wind, but swiftly denied by Moscow-appointed head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov.
Unconfirmed local reports suggested up to three aerial strikes on a ‘warehouse’ at the military training zone, after which the explosions and flames spread.
The attack may have been conducted by UK-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, suggested The Moscow Times.
The main Tavrida Highway – linking to the Crimean Bridge hit on Monday by Ukrainian marine drones – was closed by the occupying Russian army.
Some 2,250 people from four settlements near the Starokrymsky military training ground were evacuated.
The villages were named as Krynichki, Aivazovskoye, Abrikosovka and Privetnoye.
Spectacular explosions continued for more than four hours after starting at around 4.30am in Kirovsky district. Thick smoke was seen billowing into the sky.
‘It’s scene from the apocalypse,’ said a passing driver.
The Russian authorities controlling Crimea did not elaborate on the cause of the inferno.
Aksyonov said: ‘The causes of the fire at the training ground in the Kirovsky district will be established by the investigating authorities.
‘There were no casualties,’ he tried to claim. ‘The evacuees are provided with assistance.
‘People in temporary accommodation centres will be provided with everything necessary.
‘The liquidation of the consequences [of the explosions] will be carried out as soon as possible… Please keep calm and trust only official sources of information.’
The explosions came as Russia launched a blistering attack on Odessa for the second consecutive night.
Russian military blogger Vladimir Romanov said Putin’s forces hit port infrastructure, a military unit in Usatovo – including air defence systems, and tank warehouses.
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