LONDON (Reuters) – The top official in Russian-annexed Crimea said on Wednesday that the FSB security service had broken up what he described as a six-person terrorist cell of a banned Islamist group, a day after explosions rocked one of Russia’s military bases there.
“All of them are detained. The activities of the terrorists were coordinated, as one would expect, from the territory of the terrorist state of Ukraine,” Sergei Aksyonov, the official, said on Telegram.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which wants to restore its control of the Black Sea peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014, and accuses Moscow of waging an unprovoked imperial-style war of conquest to seize more of its land.
Aksyonov said the suspects were members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia.
An FSB statement did not say whether the detained individuals were linked with explosions on Tuesday at a base in Dzhankoi in northern Crimea and last week at a Russian military base in western Crimea, where satellite pictures showed eight Russian warplanes had been destroyed.
But it mentioned Dzhankoi, along with the city of Yalta, as the two locations where the alleged cell had been ‘neutralised.’ On Tuesday, Russian authorities blamed saboteurs for the explosions at Dzhankoi.
The FSB said the cell had been recruiting local Muslims and accused it of carrying out terrorist activity.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for attacking the bases in Crimea, which until recently had been seen as a secure rear base to support what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Military analysts have pointed to the possible involvement of Ukrainian partisan groups or special forces operating far behind enemy lines.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Osborn)