Pentagon: US weapons were not used in the attack on the air force base in Crimea

Tuesday’s powerful explosions at the Sakai air base in annexed Crimea, which Kyiv said destroyed nine planes and ammunition stocks, are believed to be the result of a Ukrainian attack.

No one has officially claimed responsibility; on Friday it was still unclear what caused the explosions at the base from which Russian warplanes take off to attack targets in southern Ukraine.

Russia is calling the incident an accident, but analysts say satellite images and ground-based footage suggest an attack.

The US supplies a lot of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, but they would not be able to hit a base so far away in Russian-occupied territory from Ukrainian-controlled territory.

“We have not provided anything with which they can strike Crimea,” a senior US defense official told reporters.

Specifically, he said, it could not be an American precision-guided, intermediate-range tactical missile (ATACMS). Such missiles, as requested by Kyiv, can be launched by US-supplied HIMARS systems.

“It wasn’t ATACMS because we haven’t given them ATACMS,” a US defense official said.

He added that the Pentagon has no information on whether it was a missile attack or an act of sabotage.

British military intelligence said on Friday that the explosions at the Sakai base “almost certainly” occurred in uncovered ammunition storage areas. There could be up to four such places.

At least five Su-24 fighter jets and three Su-30 multi-role aircraft were destroyed or badly damaged, the British said, but the airfield was still operational.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s “aviation capabilities are now significantly reduced”, according to the United Kingdom’s military intelligence.

Moscow officials have repeatedly threatened Ukraine that any attack in Crimea would be met with a massive response, including strikes on “decision-making centers” in Kyiv.

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