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Russia has faced growing domestic challenges as Ukraine’s economy is declining

Ukrainian Security Forces continue to demonstrate their fighting capabilities in the ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

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The Associated Press reports that in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russian-annexed Crimea was supposed to be a safe haven from which to launch further invasions of Ukraine; however, a series of explosions and a fire that was still burning on Wednesday highlighted Moscow’s upcoming challenges in a war that is rapidly approaching its halfway point.

The British Ministry of Defense Intelligence released a statement stating, “Russian commanders will highly likely become increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in security across Crimea, which functions as a rear base area for the occupation.”

Russia has admitted that a “act of sabotage” was the cause of the explosions and fires that occurred on Tuesday at an ammunition depot near Dzhankoi in the previously secure Crimean peninsula, forcing the evacuation of some 3,000 people.

Detonations at the depot near Dzhankoi continued Wednesday, highlighting Russia’s fragility in Crimea. Sergei Aksyonov, the regional leader of Crimea, said that a fire helicopter had been called in to try to put them out. A search for the attackers is underway, he said.

A week prior, Russia’s armed forces in Crimea were under scrutiny after Ukraine claimed nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in explosions. There was still room for a stray cigarette butt to be the culprit back then in Moscow.

No longer would such justifications be acceptable, as the war’s focus has shifted from the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine to the southern Crimea region.

The Kommersant business newspaper reported that explosions had also occurred near Gvardeyskoye in the central part of the Crimean peninsula, worsening the situation there. No word from the Russian government had been heard by Wednesday.

According to the British intelligence report, “two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea” are located in the towns of Gvardeyskoye and Dzhankoi.

Ukraine has refrained from blaming itself for any of the explosions, including last week’s attack on yet another Crimean air base. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and has since used it as a launching pad for attacks against Ukraine in the conflict that broke out on February 24.

If Ukrainian forces were responsible for the blasts, it would be a major escalation of the conflict. Furthermore, such attacks may suggest that Ukrainian operatives are able to deeply penetrate Russian-occupied territory.

Even as the death toll and property damage from the relentless shelling on the eastern front rose, the two sides remained locked in a stalemate.

Recent Russian shelling of several towns and villages in the Donetsk region, which is at the forefront of the Russian offensive, has resulted in the deaths of two civilians and the injuries of seven others.

According to Oleh Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional administration, four people were injured last night when Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers fired cruise missiles at the Odesa region.

Two Russian missiles struck a university building in the southern city of Mykolaiv early on Wednesday, but fortunately no one was hurt in the attack.

Overnight, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv and other parts of the Kharkiv region, causing damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure but fortunately no casualties.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday. Russia and Ukraine have each accused the other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is now in Russian-controlled territory. The two leaders are expected to discuss the grain shipments and a possible fact-finding mission to the plant.

Here is where you can find the AP’s war coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine