At least seven Russian warplanes were destroyed after explosions rocked annexed Crimea on Tuesday, new satellite images show, in what CNN research found could be Moscow’s biggest loss of military aircraft in a single day since World War II.
The destroyed warplanes appear to be Su-24 bombers and Su-30 multirole fighter jets, said Peter Layton, a fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and a former Australian Air Force pilot, who examined Planet Lab satellite photos showing the Saki Air Base before and after the explosions.
Two more warplanes appear to have been damaged, Layton said. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian armed forces added nine aircraft to the tally of Russian military hardware they say has been destroyed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said it could not determine the cause of the explosions at the air base, which lies 225 kilometers (140 miles) behind the Russian front line, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said the blasts were caused by aviation ammunition — but did not say how it had been detonated.
Video on social media, verified and geolocated by CNN as being from the air base, shows smoke rising from the base before it is rocked by three large, fiery explosions that send black mushroom clouds into the sky. Two of the explosions happen almost simultaneously and a third occurs shortly thereafter.
The satellite photos also show the explosions burned a swath of vegetation around a portion of the air base.
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