crimea runaway fire

A blaze broke out at the Belbek airfield near the city of Sevastopol after a military aircraft skidded off the runway
A military aircraft loaded with ammunition skidded off the runway at an airfield in Crimea on Saturday, resulting in a major fire, according to the local authorities.

Photos and videos published on social media showed massive plumes of black thick smoke billowing over the area where the Balbek military airfield is located not far from the port city of Sevastopol. Some witnesses also claimed to have heard explosions in the area.

The incident at the airfield was caused by a military aircraft, Sevastopol Mayor Mikhail Razvozhaev said in a Telegram post. The aircraft skidded off the runway while landing and caught fire, according to the mayor, citing local emergency services. Later, Razvozhaev also said that the ammunition onboard detonated.

The pilot of the aircraft managed to make it to safety, the mayor said. There have been no official reports of any casualties. The fire at the airfield was "promptly extinguished," the local authorities said, adding that the airfield itself was not damaged.

The developments come amid the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The peninsula, which broke away from Ukraine following an armed coup in Kiev in 2014 and voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to join Russia, has already seen several major incidents over the course of the conflict.

Powerful explosions near a Russian ammunition depot rocked the village of Mayskoye in northeastern Crimea in August, while earlier in the month the Saki military airfield saw a series of blasts that injured 14 people and killed one. The Russian Defense Ministry called the strikes acts of "sabotage."

In early September, Ukraine's top commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, took responsibility for the attacks on the Crimean facilities, calling them a "series of successful missile strikes."

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.