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Emergency responders rush in after hearing blasts near a Russian airbase in Crimea.

On Tuesday, three local witnesses told Reuters they had heard loud explosions and observed black smoke rising from a Russian military airstrip at Novofedorivka on the Crimean peninsula that had been invaded.


Emergency responders rush in after hearing blasts near a Russian airbase in Crimea.

MOSCOW, Aug 9, 8:04Pm (Reuters) - Three local witnesses told Reuters they had heard loud explosions and seen black smoke rising from the direction of a Russian military airbase at Novofedorivka on the annexed Crimean peninsula on Tuesday.

Videos purportedly captured at the scene, some of them posted on social media and shot from nearby tourist beaches, showed a plume of smoke. The videos could not immediately be verified. At least 12 explosions of varying intensity were heard in the course of a minute around 15:30 p.m. local time (1230 GMT), two witnesses said. Three were particularly loud, triggering sparks and smoke.

Around 30 minutes later, one more blast, described by witnesses as the loudest of all, triggered two more plumes of smoke and dust. In the nearby town of Saky, sirens blared. The Russian governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said in a post on his Telegram channel that he had gone to the area and that the "circumstances are being clarified".

An advisor to Aksyonov confirmed that explosions had occurred but declined to comment on the possible cause, Russian news agencies reported. Emergency services were deployed, the TASS news agency reported, citing the regional health ministry. Locals reported congestion on roads leading away from the coast.

Russia for decades leased the naval port of Sevastopol, home of its Black Sea Fleet, from Kyiv, but in 2014 annexed the entire peninsula from Ukraine in a move not recognized by most other countries.

Crimea has so far been spared the intense bombardment and artillery combat that have taken place in other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine since Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian armed forces into Ukraine - including some based in the peninsula.

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