The Pentagon claimed American-supplied weapons were not used to attack a Russian airbase in Crimea, which voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia in 2014.
Several explosions occurred at the Saki base in Crimea on Tuesday, damaging or destroying about eight aircraft and ammunition stockpiles. Ukrainian forces are said to be behind the explosions.
The US Department of Defense said Friday it did not know the cause of the devastating explosions at the site, AFP reported.
No one has claimed responsibility, nor is it clear what caused the explosions at the base.
Russia said the incident was an accident, but American media claimed it was an attack.
The Pentagon has supplied large quantities of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. The US military has also confirmed the delivery of American anti-radar missiles to Ukraine to facilitate targeting of Russian radar systems by Ukrainian warplanes.
“We have not provided anything that would allow or enable them to invade Crimea,” a senior US defense official told reporters.
The official specifically said it was not a US precision-guided medium-range tactical missile, known as Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. Ukraine has requested ATACMS, which can be launched from US-supplied HIMARS systems already in Ukraine.
“It wasn’t ATACMS because we didn’t give them ATACMS,” the defense official said.
The official added that the US military does not know whether it was a missile attack on the base or an act of sabotage.
The official claimed it had “quite a significant impact on Russian air (operations) and air personnel.”
British intelligence officials said on Friday that the numerous huge explosions videotaped by people in the area “almost certainly resulted from the detonation of up to four uncovered ammunition dumps”.
They claimed that five Su-24 fighter-bombers and three Su-30 multirole jets were destroyed or badly damaged by the blasts.
“Saki was mainly used as a base for the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet aircraft,” said British Defense Intelligence.
“The fleet’s naval aviation capabilities are now significantly compromised,” she added.
Colin Kahl, Secretary of Defense at the US Department of Defense, told a news conference Monday that the Pentagon had shipped “a number” of the missiles to Ukraine, without specifying how many and when they were shipped.
However, citing a military official, CNN identified the type of missile sent as “AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM)”.
Kahl revealed the delivery of the missiles to Ukraine in a briefing on Washington’s latest $1 billion arms package for Kyiv, the largest U.S. arms package to date.
Under the latest package, the US has committed to sending a total of $9.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in late February.
The package focused on supplying ammunition for some of the key weapon systems that the US has delivered to Ukraine to date. It includes the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) used by the Ukrainian military to target what the US media is calling Russian command posts, ammunition depots and more, as well as M777 howitzers that were a crucial part of the battle in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
The development came amid US press reports that Washington plans to ship an additional $5.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine while stepping up support for Kyiv in its war with Russia.
Meanwhile, Russian forces in eastern Ukraine have destroyed a US-made radar system and advanced US-made missiles.
In its daily briefing on Friday, Russia’s defense ministry said two highly mobile artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and AN/MPQ-64 radar systems used by Ukrainian forces were destroyed in the Donetsk region.
On Wednesday, the ministry said Russian forces had destroyed a German-supplied Gepard anti-aircraft system deployed by Ukrainian forces in the Mykolaiv region.
The Defense Ministry also said it shot down three Ukrainian warplanes in the Mykolaiv region and seven HIMARS missiles in the neighboring Kherson region.
Russia has repeatedly warned that US and NATO supplies of weapons systems to Ukraine could fuel the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv and have unpredictable consequences.