FRESH satellite images reveal the devastation at a Russian airbase after it was struck by a series of powerful explosions.
Broken and charred remains of Russian fighter jets can be seen at the air force base in occupied Crimea, following a reported Ukrainian airstrike on Tuesday afternoon.
Russia had previously denied any of its aircraft were damaged in the blast at Saki airbase in Western Crimea, just miles from beaches popular with Russian visitors.
The suspected Ukrainian attack left at least one person dead, up to 20 aeroplanes destroyed, and around $1 billion of damage, according to Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs.
On Wednesday, a clip reportedly taken from the base revealed the scorched remains of a £19m Russian fighter jet destroyed on the base.
Russia has again denied that any aircraft were damaged in the blasts – even refusing to acknowledge that any attack had taken place – bizarrely putting the incident down to an accident caused by an aircraft engine fire.
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But photos of the base published by US satellite imaging company Planet Labs show the extent of the destruction at the base, with at least seven fighter jets completely obliterated.
Swathes of scorched earth at the base also appear to show a series of blasts.
At least three large craters can be seen next to jet ammunition storage buildings, showing that the attack may be far worse than the Kremlin has previously admitted.
"One way to interpret those craters is precise strikes from a long-range munition," Elliot Higgins from investigative agency Bellingcat reported.
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He added that there were "no impacts visible that look like they could be misses, so either they used very accurate weapons or they got very lucky".
Officials in Kyiv have so far stopped short of directly claiming responsibility to the attack – but confirmed at least nine planes had been destroyed and mocked Russia's explanation that the fire could have been down to a careless smoker.
In a sarcastic Facebook post, the ministry said it "cannot establish the cause of the fire, but once again recalls the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places".
Ukraine's defence ministry later responded to the deadly blast with a video trolling Russians for visiting the beaches in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Either they used very accurate weapons or they got very lucky
In a clip shared on its official Twitter account, it joked that the Russians could have visited Dubai, Turkey, or Cuba, instead of the disputed territory, after dramatic images showed a mushroom cloud rising in the background next to a packed beach.
Tourists were seen fleeing in panic and even crying as plumes of smoke rose over the nearby coastline.
Footage of a nearby resort shows scores of buildings with blown-out windows, while Crimean authorities say at least 250 people have been moved out of their homes and into temporary accommodation.
Miles-long queues of fleeing Russians have been pictured crossing the main border between Crimea and Russia.
But Russian authorities have downplayed the explosions, claiming that no hotels or beaches in Crimea have been affected in the peninsula popular with tourists from Russia.
Saki airbase has been used as a base for countless attacks on the southeast of Ukraine.
It is some 125 miles from the nearest Ukrainian position, beyond the range of most of the country's long-range munitions – including the infamous US-provided Himars rocket launchers, which can reach targets up to 50 miles away.
ATACMS, a type of missile used in the Himars, can travel up to 190 miles, but the US has insisted that none have been delivered yet.
This suggests they may have struck the base with anti-ship missiles supplied by the West.
The attack has also been put down to possible pro-Ukrainian guerillas working in Crimea.
Russia has demanded Ukraine recognise Crimea as its territory before any ceasefire is agreed.
Hours after the attack, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that the war could not end until the liberation of Crimea.
It came just hours before at least eight blasts were reported in neighbouring Belarus at the Zyabrovka airbase, used regularly by Russian military aircraft.
Belarus – a close ally of Moscow – has also downplayed the reports of explosions on Wednesday night, with the country's defence ministry putting them down to an engine fire.
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The base is around 30km (18 miles) from the Belarus-Ukraine border.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko permitted Putin's troops into his country months before the war broke out.
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