Ukraine's GUR military intelligence agency said late Monday that a rail shipment of several Russian Kalibr cruise missiles had been destroyed in Dzhankoi, a town in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the explosion in Dzhankoi — it rarely does for attacks inside Russian zones — but it implied Ukrainian forces were involved, lauding the ongoing "process of Russia's demilitarization and prepares the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea for de-occupation."
Britain's Ministry of Defense has identified Dzhankoi as an important Russian military airfield and "a key road and rail junction" for supplying Russian forces.
Sergei Askyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said on social media that anti-aircraft weapons were fired near Dzhankoi and falling debris had injured one person, but he did not mention cruise missiles. The Russian-picked mayor of Dzhankoi said the area had been attacked by drones. "Amateur video geolocated by CNN shows a large explosion and resulting fireball" in Dzhankoi, CNN says, and "an individual is heard saying off-camera the strike hit the train station." But there has been no independent confirmation of the various claims.
Ukraine says it plans to win back Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and this isn't the first presumptive Ukrainian attack on Russian forces and infrastructure on the peninsula — or off it. In fact, Russian authorities have reported more than 300 missile or artillery strikes in Russian border villages and towns since Russia invaded last year, The Washington Post reports, and "there have been at least 27 publicly reported drone attacks on high-value targets in Russia, primarily military bases, airfields, and energy facilities."
"These incidents in Crimea and other areas of Russia far from the war's front lines have exposed major weaknesses in Russia's defenses, and embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin," The Associated Press reports.
The explosion in Dzhankoi comes days after Putin visited Crimea to mark Russia's annexation and during Chinese President Xi Jinping's heavily symbolic visit to Moscow to affirm China's relationship to the increasingly isolated Putin.
If Ukraine did destroy a load of Kalibr missiles, that places further pressure on Russia's "limited stock of missiles," and demonstrate "how Ukraine will be able to conduct such strikes across Crimea, with greater frequently, once it takes back more of its southern territory," retired Australian Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan writes. The timing is interesting, too, "coming as Xi visits Putin for their Moscow authoritarian lovefest," he adds. Maybe it will help Putin convince Xi to assist Russia's war effort, but "it is more likely to cause Putin embarrassment in front of his 'friend.'"