Ukraine Situation Report: Explosions Rock Russian-Occupied Crimea
Ukrainian and Russian media outlets and Telegram channels reported an attack while Kyiv claims Kalibr missiles were destroyed.
Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) claims that Russian Kalibr missiles were destroyed during transport in the town of Dzhankoy, home to a Russian airbase in the occupied Crimean peninsula.
"An explosion in the city of Dzhankoy in the north of the temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed the Russian 'Kalibr NK' cruise missiles during their transportation by railway," the GUR claimed Monday on its Telegram channel. The missiles are "designed for launches from surface ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet."
The sea-launched Kalibrs have been used frequently by Russia to target civilian infrastructure.
The explosions on Monday - about 90 miles from the front lines - continued "the process of Russia's demilitarization and prepares the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea for deoccupation," the GUR reported, without saying exactly what caused the explosions. We reached out to the GUR and will update this story with any information provided.
The War Zone could not independently verify the GUR's claims, but the Russian occupation governor and Ukrainian and Russian media outlets and Telegram channels on Monday reported some kind of attack on Dzhankoy.
Those accounts came as video and still images emerged on social media of explosions, the loud buzzing sound of apparent drones, gunfire and the reported downing of a drone.
While it is unclear at the moment what damage was caused in the attack, at least one person was injured by a drone that was shot down, according to the Telegram channel of Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea.
“According to preliminary data, the wreckage damaged the household and the store,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, one person was injured.”
“The consequences are now being assessed, decisions on compensation will be made,” Aksyonov wrote. “I am at the workplace, coordinating the work of all departments. We will keep you posted on the situation. Trust only trusted sources of information.”
“Residents of Dzhankoy report an attack by Ukrainian drones,” the Russian Mash news agency reported on its Telegram channel. “The wreckage of one of them hit the grocery store. Previously, the seller suffered.”
“Explosions and shots are reported in Dzhankoy,” the Ukrainian Klymenko Time media outlet reported on its Telegram channel. “Crimean [residents] write that a drone was shot down.”
“Ukrainian formations are conducting another raid on the Crimean peninsula,” the Russian Rybar Telegram channel reported. “At the moment, air defense units of the RF Armed Forces are repelling an attack by drones over Dzhankoy.”
“With a high degree of probability, the Armed Forces of Ukraine tried to strike at a military airfield,” Rybar added. “Given the tactics of extreme attacks, one should expect the appearance of handicraft-equipped UAVs in other regions of Crimea.”
While much about this incident is still unknown beyond the extent of damage, including what kind of drones and how many were used, this is the latest in a series of Ukrainian attempts to attack the airbase there as well as other locations in Crimea.
Russian air defenses were also activated on Jan. 2 over Dzhankoy, though it remains unclear what happened.
Crimea has, as we have written about many times before, been a frequent target of Ukrainian drone attacks. You can read more about the history of those attacks here.
These attacks, combined with Ukrainian officials repeatedly vowing to liberate Crimea, apparently have Russians building up fortifications on the peninsula.
Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
The Pentagon on Monday announced the 34th authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance for Ukraine, this time valued at up to $350 million. The package contains mostly munitions, including more Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRSs) munitions the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS provided by the U.S. as well as an assortment of artillery and mortar rounds, more AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs), riverine boats and other items.
The Pentagon declined to tell The War Zone which kind of Riverine boats will be provided in this latest tranche, which included the following:
- Ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- 155mm artillery rounds;
- 25mm ammunition;
- High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs);
- 81mm and 60mm mortar systems and mortar rounds;
- AT-4 anti-armor weapon systems;
- Grenade launchers, small arms, and associated ammunition;
- Demolition munitions and equipment for obstacle clearing;
- Mine clearing equipment;
- Heavy fuel tankers;
- Thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
- Riverine patrol boats;
- Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair;
- Spare parts and other field equipment.
On the battlefield, the embattled coal mining city of Bakhmut remains the "epicenter" of combat, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff.
"The Russian Federation continues to lead offensive actions in the Limansky, Bakhmutsky, Avdiivsky, Maryinsky and Shakhtar directions," the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff reported on its Facebook page Monday. "During the past day, our soldiers repelled 69 enemy attacks in these directions. The epicenter of the fighting remains Bakhmut."
The Russian Rybar Telegram channel reports that Wagner mercenary group forces are continuing to press the attack on Bakhmut.
"The head of a private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said that more than 70% of the settlement had already been liberated," according to Rybar. "Despite the difficult situation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are preparing a counteroffensive by March 24 in the Bakhmut sector. Significant reinforcements were transferred from the cities of Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkov and Chernigov to the Chasov Yar-Konstantinovka line. By activating at Bakhmut, the Ukrainian authorities intend to demonstrate to Western countries the readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the spring-summer campaign and convince them to speed up the supply of military equipment."
The fighting in Bakhmut remains fierce, as you can see in this video of Ukrainians firing man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) at a Russian aircraft. It is unclear from this video what the result of the attack was.
Ukrainian drone operators meanwhile continue dropping munitions on Russian forces there, as you can see in these videos.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow on Monday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby repeated his concerns about any call emanating from that meeting for a ceasefire in Ukraine.
"We encouraged President Xi to advocate for this exact essential key point, which must include the withdrawal of Russian forces from sovereign Ukrainian territory consistent with the U.N. Charter," Kirby told reporters at the White House. "The entire world would like to see this war end - especially the Ukrainians themselves, who have put forward their own plan for a just peace, which draws, again, on these same U.N. principles."
"We hope that President Xi will press President Putin to cease bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals, and schools; to halt the war crimes and atrocities; and to withdraw all his troops. But we are concerned that, instead, China will reiterate calls for a ceasefire that leaves Russian forces inside Ukraine sovereign territory. And any ceasefire that does not address the removal of Russian forces from Ukraine would effectively ratify Russia's illegal conquests, enabling Russia to entrench its positions and then to restart the war at a more advantageous time for them."
Efforts to end this conflict "must take Ukraine's position into account," Kirby said. "And so we encourage President Xi to play a constructive role by speaking with President Zelensky, which he has not done since Russia launched this invasion. Because China, quite frankly, we believe, should hear directly from the Ukrainians and not just from the Russians."
After two of his pilots returned from a trip to the U.S. where they got a chance to fly F-16 simulators, the commander of the Ukrainian Air Force said they can learn to fly western fighters like the Viper far quicker than suggested by the U.S. and NATO allies.
“They spent three weeks there and were trained on an F-16 simulator how to fly together as two pilots using weapons," Ukrainian Gen. Serhii Holubtsov told the Times of London in an exclusive interview. "The results came out very good: Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly and operate weapons systems on the F-16 in less than six months,” he told the publication.
“I am losing some of my best people because of the lack of proper equipment," he said. "The sooner we have all the help we need, the sooner we win this war, the more lives we save.”
The timetable for how long it really takes to learn how to fly an F-16 is something we discussed in depth in our story which you can read here.
Norway on Monday said that eight Leopard 2 tanks and support vehicles are now in Ukraine and that training is also underway in Poland, under the auspices of the European Union.
"In addition to the eight tanks and support vehicles that have been donated, Norway provides earmarked funds for ammunition and spare parts," the Norwegian government said.
Canada is sending an Armored Recovery Vehicle to Ukraine. The vehicle was loaded aboard an An-124 transport jet last week.
The first confirmation of four North Macedonian Su-25 Frogfoot fighters being sent to Ukraine has apparently emerged on social media. The jets are reportedly not airworthy and will most likely be used for spare parts, which are always in high demand. You can read our original report on these aircraft here.
The announcement by North Macedonian Defense Minister Slavjanka Petrovska on March 14 confirms reports by Janes in July 2022 that four non-airworthy Su-25s (three single-seat Su-25s and one twin-seat Su-25UB) were transferred.
The Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group posted photos on Twitter showing a Ukrainian soldier firing an Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) TOW missile supplied by the U.S.
Ukraine shot down a Russian 12-camera-lense "Kartograf" reconnaissance drone somewhere in the east, according to the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group.
Meanwhile, in Russia, a drone without any identification was found Sunday in the Tula region, according to the official Russian TASS news agency.
"On March 19, a fallen unmanned aerial vehicle without identification signs was found in a field far from dwelling houses between the settlements of Petrovskoye and Malovel in the Odoyevsky district," the regional security committee said, adding that there is no threat to people and infrastructure.
Add Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, a former Navy combat pilot (and NASA astronaut) to the list of those who think the March 14 downing of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone by a Russian Su-27 Flanker jet was the result of that pilot's incompetence.
"I'm not surprised by this. I mean, I flew with Russian pilots, fighter pilots who couldn't fly formation. And I watched this video, and it's pretty obvious what happened. He lost sight of it, and he crashed into it," Kelly told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday.
And old drone footage emerged on social media, showing video from the battle for Snake Island in May.
The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed one of its Su-35 Flanker jets intercepted two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers on Monday.
"On 20 March, air defense radars on duty in the Western Military District detected two aerial targets flying towards the state border of the Russian Federation over the Baltic Sea," the Russian MOD reported on its Telegram channel.
"The targets were classified as two U.S. Air Force B-52H strategic bombers. In order to identify and prevent a violation of the state border of the Russian Federation, a Su-35 fighter jet from the air defense force of the Western Military District on duty scrambled, and its crew occupied the designated airborne alert area. As the foreign military aircraft flew off the state border of the Russian Federation, the Russian fighter jet returned to its home airfield. The flight of the Russian fighter jet was carried out in strict compliance with international rules of airspace use. There was no violation of the state border of the Russian Federation."
We reached out to U.S. Air Forces Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE) for comment and will update this story with any information provided.
Interestingly enough, USAFE used screenshots from a flight tracking website to announce the mission, as you can see below.
Another flight tracking website showed the circuitous route of the B-52, callsign NOBLE11.
Putin visited the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol Sunday which was destroyed by his forces' siege.
"Driving through the ruined city at night, Vladimir Putin has made his first visit to Mariupol - devastated when Russian forces besieged the city earlier on in the war," the BBC reported.
The BBC "has traced part of the route he took, which passed near the locations of several notorious attacks during his army's months-long assault. Russia finally overran the city in May. Video released by Russian media show Mr. Putin chatting to a companion as they head towards the city's concert hall. The Kremlin says the visit took place late on Saturday and Mr. Putin decided 'spontaneously' to tour the city."
The visit apparently did not go as well as Putin hoped, with some in the crowd jeering him, according to the BBC.
But Putin seemed to have plenty of supporters too, apparently familiar faces from previous events he's attended.
Speaking of Putin, last week we wrote about how the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader as well as Maria Lvova-Belova, commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, for war crimes.
The two are accused of the illegal deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation.
That news did not sit well with flamboyant Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, who called for any nation detaining Putin be destroyed with nuclear weapons.
Solovyov also threatened the Netherlands directly as well.
Sappers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces neutralized 45,000 explosive objects in a year, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) said Monday on its Telegram channel.
"With the beginning of the large-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, the problem of contamination by mines, ammunition, and explosive objects in the territories of Ukraine took on a national scale," the MoD reported. "According to preliminary estimates, currently more than 130,000 square kilometers of the territory of Ukraine are contaminated with explosive objects. This is almost a third of the territory of our state."
More than 20 de-mining groups of the Command of the Support Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are currently involved in the de-mining of de-occupied territories.
Engineering and mining units are currently working in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernihiv and Cherkasy regions, according to the Ukrainian MoD.
To help with that effort, the Kherson Oblast received some mechanized de-mining equipment.
A crowdsourcing effort is underway in Norway to raise funds to purchase ambulances for Ukraine.
And finally, this war has been devastating all across Ukraine, but apparently the pig population is thriving.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news from Ukraine to report.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org