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War between Russia and Ukraine: Exclusive satellite images show destroyed aircraft and buildings at Belbek air base



CNN

Satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN on Wednesday show three destroyed Russian fighter jets and damaged buildings at the Belbek air base in the occupied port city of Sevastopol.

The hardware losses come after two days of attacks by the Ukrainians on Sevastopol in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Images taken by US satellite imaging company BlackSky and space technology company Maxar show two fighter jets burned out on the main flight line at Belbek, next to a third parked on a protective embankment. The satellite images also show a destroyed building nearby and another building that sustained significant damage.

Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, said on Telegram on Friday that the Russians “have successfully repelled a massive enemy attack on Sevastopol.” Razvozhaev said “dozens” of unmanned aerial vehicles and “more than five naval drones were destroyed.” The city suffered a partial power outage as drone debris fell on an electricity substation, he added.

The attack marks the second time in the past 48 hours that Belbek has been targeted by the Ukrainians.

When asked about a possible Ukrainian attack on Belbek, Dmytro Pletenchuk, the spokesman for the Ukrainian army’s south, said on Thursday: “We cannot reveal any details at this time because there is no verified information at the moment.” CNN has contacted the Ukrainian military for an update.

Satellite images exclusive to CNN show destroyed aircraft and buildings at Belbek Air Base in Crimea on May 15, 2024.
Satellite images exclusive to CNN show destroyed aircraft and buildings at Belbek Air Base in Crimea on May 15, 2024.

An insurgent Ukrainian group in Crimea, Atesh, claimed after the second attack on Telegram that an artillery warehouse at Belbek airport had been damaged.

“Significant damage to the airport infrastructure due to secondary blasts was also recorded,” the report said.

But none of the satellite images viewed by CNN showed any sign of a missile or artillery weapons depot being hit, or of any secondary explosions taking place.

While Moscow appears to have the upper hand in its ground campaign of late, Kiev’s forces have had continued success in attacking Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, both with missile strikes and drone strikes from sea.

In March, Ukraine said it had hit two Russian naval vessels, along with a communications center and several other Black Sea Fleet facilities, in a massive overnight attack. Ukraine said the affected ships were two amphibious landing ships, the Yamal and the Azov.

More than twenty Russian naval vessels have now been disabled or destroyed, a third of the entire fleet. Although Ukraine has virtually no navy of its own, technological innovation, daring and Russian incompetence have given it the upper hand in much of the Black Sea. In October last year, satellite images indicated that Russia had moved some of its naval vessels from Sevastopol following a series of Ukrainian attacks.

Satellite images exclusive to CNN show destroyed aircraft and buildings at Belbek Air Base in Crimea on May 15, 2024.
Satellite images exclusive to CNN show destroyed aircraft and buildings at Belbek Air Base in Crimea on May 15, 2024.

The attack on Belbek comes as Russia advances in northeastern Ukraine, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to postpone his participation in all international events in the coming days as his forces defend against the surprise offensive in the region Kharkov.

The offensive is the most serious cross-border ground attack since Ukraine retook the Kharkiv region in late summer 2022. It comes as the Ukrainians struggle with thinly stretched military forces, artillery and inadequate air defenses, while waiting for much-needed ammunition and weapons to be promised. part of a long-delayed $2 billion US military financing package.

Russian troops have taken control of more than nine villages close to the border since the start of Moscow’s advance. The city of Vovchansk, about 60 kilometers northeast of Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city, has been the scene of some of the most intense battles.

However, NATO believes that Russian troops do not have the numbers needed for a “strategic” breakthrough in Kharkov, a senior commander of the military alliance said on Thursday.

General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a news conference in Brussels that while the Russians “have the ability to make local progress,” they “do not have the skill and the ability to do that, to do it on a large scale.” to operate”. necessary to exploit any breakthrough to strategic advantage.”

Zelensky met with senior military officials in Kharkiv earlier on Thursday. He described an “extremely difficult” prospect for Kiev’s troops on the ground, where “we are strengthening our units.”

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday and the two vowed to deepen their strategic partnership, in a stark demonstration of their growing alignment.

Russia’s economy has become increasingly dependent on China since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and a sweeping joint statement outlining their countries’ stance on a range of issues, including energy, trade, security and geopolitics, with specific references to Ukraine .