Vn Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula occupied in 2014, there should only be good news for viewers of Russian state television on Wednesday. “Ammunition detonations have stopped in Crimea,” the radio station Rossiya 24 reported in the morning, referring to the events near the town of Dzhankoy in the north of the peninsula. There were explosions in an ammunition depot there on Tuesday morning, which, among other things, damaged a railway connection so that train traffic had to be interrupted.
The broadcaster also fumed about Kiev’s “crazy plans” to attack the Russian-built bridge from mainland Russia to Crimea. The peninsula is supplied via the road and rail connection; The bridge is also important for supplies to the southern Ukrainian areas that have been conquered since the end of February. The state television spokeswoman added that the bridge across the Kerch Strait will be protected by “several tiers” of anti-aircraft defenses. That sounded reassuring.
President Vladimir Putin, whose image as a strong man is linked to Crimea’s fate, has had the peninsula upgraded over the past eight years into a kind of Russian “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the Black Sea. But ever since the August 9 explosions at a military airfield near Novofedorivka on Crimea’s west coast, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the defense and defense mechanisms.
Increased controls on rail traffic in Crimea
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that fire safety regulations had been violated, causing ammunition to explode. But recordings revealed explosions in several places. Western satellite images are said to prove that at least seven fighter planes were destroyed on the military airfield. Putin’s state media doesn’t show them because his defense ministry said no planes were damaged.
On Tuesday, explosions are said not only to have occurred near Dschankoj; the newspaper Kommersant also reported on minor explosions at a military airfield near the city of Simferopol and headlined that Crimea had “lost its calm”. There was no official confirmation from the Russian side of the second event, but calls not to believe the rumors. The Russian Ministry of Defense initially blamed a fire for the detonations near Dschankoi, and hours later an “act of sabotage”.
Kommersant reported that a few days ago controls on rail traffic in Crimea were tightened, presumably because of “information” that “acts of sabotage” were being prepared. Such reports have existed in the past, but on dubious grounds. Six years ago, the Russian secret service FSB arrested two men in Crimea, portrayed them as Ukrainian “saboteurs” and tortured them, according to lawyers. At the time, Putin himself took the case as an opportunity to accuse Kyiv of “terrorism”. The two men were sentenced to several years in prison, human rights activists see them as political prisoners.
Kyiv claims what happened near Dzhankoy; even Putin’s state television murmured after the recent explosions of “sleeper cells” by Ukrainian forces in Crimea. But the security forces were unable to identify suspects in the explosion. Instead, the FSB’s arrest of six members of a “terrorist cell” in Dzhankoy and Yalta was prominently reported. The Moscow-appointed “head” of Crimea, Sergei Axyonov, wrote on Telegram that “terrorists’ activities were, as was to be expected, coordinated from the territory of the terrorist state of Ukraine.”
Arrests took place in the past week
Formally, the allegations against the six men are not related to the explosions near Dschankoi; Rather, they are accused of membership in the Islamist group Hizb ut Tachrir, which is legal in Ukraine but banned in Russia. In corresponding proceedings, particularly active representatives of the Muslim ethnic group of the Crimean Tatars, most of whom reject the annexation, have been persecuted and sentenced to years in prison in trials. The human rights activists have sharply criticized them and the victims are classified as political prisoners.
The new case also reveals political instrumentalization. Contrary to what the reports from Wednesday suggest, the six men were not only arrested now, but after early morning raids on Thursday last week. One of them is Enwer Krosch, a young comrade in the Crimean Solidarity movement, which takes care of prisoners from the peninsula and their families.
Krosch’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinow, told the FAZ that his client denied any guilt. Krosch, father of three small children, was abused after the arrest, as in 2015, and has bruises and abrasions. Lawyer Kurbedinov is convinced that the arrests were only reported now in order to cover up the information about the explosions in Dzhankoy, which the authorities could not have prevented. “They want to justify their impotence,” says Kurbedinow.