A blast has struck a public beach in the city of Mariupol, the territorial defense authority of the Donetsk People’s Republic said in a statement on Friday. The explosion reportedly claimed the lives of two civilians, including a child.
According to Russian media reports, some witnesses heard a loud blast and saw a 30-meter-high water plume rising over the beach at the time of the explosion. The authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic described the source of the blast only as “an explosive object.”
According to media reports, the victims might have found themselves close to a floating naval mine that detonated after hitting an object not far from the shore. The city’s public beach is located close to the Azovstal steel plant – the facility that had for weeks remained the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces and the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment after the rest of the city was liberated by the Donbass republic’s militias and Russian troops.
The Ukrainian forces holed up at Azovstal surrendered to Russian troops in late May. Russian forces have been demining areas liberated from the Ukrainian troops for weeks. On May 26, the head of Russia’s National Defense Operations Center, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, said Russian troops had finished demining the Mariupol city port and had inspected more than 50km of the Azov Sea shoreline.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry also said its specialists had defused over 24,000 explosive objects in the Donbass republics since the start of the Russian military operation in late February. Mariupol is located in the south of the territory Russia sees as belonging to the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Russia had repeatedly accused Ukraine of heavily mining Black Sea ports and water areas near its territory.
According to Moscow, such actions have posed a threat to civil navigation and affected trade worldwide, including Ukrainian grain, which has become a hot topic recently amid fears of a global food crisis.
Russia attacked Ukraine following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.