War with Russia will be over when Putin takes Crimea, says Mr Zelensky

He said: “We will not forget the Russian war against Ukraine began with the occupation of Crimea. “This Russian war…began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation.” The president did not mention the attack on the Saky airbase but sources said nine Russian fighter jets were destroyed in the huge explosions on Tuesday. Details are scarce but a Ukrainian government official said special forces were involved, marking a significant moment in the war.

It demonstrates how Ukraine is developing its capabilities to strike deep behind Russian lines.

Its special forces are also trying to coordinate guerrilla activity by Ukrainians trapped inside Russian-held areas.

The Saky military base is near Novofedorivka, in the west of Crimea, near seaside resorts popular with Russian tourists.

It is believed one person died and 13 were wounded in the attack, which also sent tourists fleeing in panic as huge plumes of smoke began to billow over the coastline.

If confirmed, the losses would be the biggest in a single day for the Russian air force – and could curtail its missile strikes on southern Ukraine.

But the Institute for the Study of War think-tank doubted the Russians would want to confirm them.

A spokesman said: “The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage, since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defence systems.”