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Explosions in Russian-occupied Mariupol suggest Ukraine has long-range missiles

The image shows a hospital destroyed by the Russian army in occupied Mariupol. Source: The City Council of Mariupol
Explosions in Russian-occupied Mariupol suggest Ukraine has long-range missiles

A series of explosions in Russian-occupied Mariupol suggests that Ukraine has received capabilities for long-distance strikes.

On 9:48, three explosions were heard near the Illich plant, it reported, adding that the probability that Russian forces were hit is high, as there were no signs of Russian air defense working and the occupiers raised aviation above the city.

Petro Andriushchenko, advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote that two explosions targeted a Russian base on the territory of the Illich plant, and the third hit Russian warehouses near the airport.

In previous days, explosions were reported in Mariupol as well.

On 22 February, the Mariupol city administration reported that explosions were heard at 22:51 and 22:53 near the Illich factory; reportedly, the seaport area was hit.

And on the evening of 21 February, it reported that 11 explosions were heard in the city starting at 22:23, in the regions the AS-2 area (Central district) and Stan-3000 (Kalmius district), after which the occupied city experienced problems with power and connectivity. Then, Petro Andriushchenko, advisor to Mariupol mayor, wrote that a Russian military base and an ammunition stockpile near the airport were destroyed, after which the Russians had to raise in the air force.

The explosions are noteworthy because Mariupol is located nearly 80km from the front, putting it outside of Ukrainian striking capabilities. The missiles that Ukraine uses with the HIMARS MLRS and the M270, the GMLRS, have a range of roughly 70 km.

The Drive says that the hits raised speculations of what weapon Ukraine could have used for the strikes, and lists several options:

  1. Ukraine has already received the  Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), which can hit targets at around 150 km away. The Pentagon has not commented on whether Ukraine has received these bombs. The United States earlier said it would provide GLSDBs to Ukraine, but it was not expected they would be available for use by Ukraine until June.
  2. The Vilkha-M Ukrainian domestic heavy MLRS (based on the Soviet Smerch system), which is reported to have a range of 130 kilometers.
  3. Ukraine’s own ballistic missiles
  4. Long-range kamikaze drones, which Ukraine previously used to hit airfields in Russia

The attack appeared to shake up Russian milblogger Ivan Utenkov, who said he was surprised by the explosions, which he surmised were caused by “some new munitions,” The Drive reported.

“The enemy has definitely started something and the next couple of days will be hell in that area,” he said.

Ukraine is on the verge of a new offensive campaign that may aim to regain Crimea.

In an interview with Euromaidan Press, former commander of the US Army in Europe Ben Hodges said that the liberation of Crimea will be the decisive phase of the campaign, and it will start with the disruption of logistical networks important for Crimea, including Melitopol and Mariupol, where Russia has established a military stronghold after the city fell in May 2022.

“Ukrainian forces are already hitting targets inside Melitopol to sever that land bridge [which runs from Rostov (Russia) through Mariupol and Melitopol and Crimea]. That is going to be a critical part that leads or sets the conditions for the liberation of Crimea, which I expect will be finished by the end of August. […] The Ukrainian General Staff has to isolate Crimea from external support, which means continuing to block or destroy the Kerch Bridge and continuing to block the land bridge that runs through Mariupol and Melitopol,” he told.

Ukraine to liberate Crimea by end of August 2023 – former commander of US Army in Europe

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