VLADIMIR Putin has been forced to pull back his jets and helicopters from Crimea after a massive blitz on Russian military bases - as humiliating video shows mutinying soldiers refusing to fight.
Ukrainian intelligence sources claim some 24 fighter jets and bombers along with 14 choppers retreated deeper into the Black Sea peninsula - or back to mainland Russia.
The dramatic withdrawal follows the heavy bombardment of Putin's military bases on the Russian-occupied peninsula over the last nine days from Ukrainian special forces.
A devastating series of explosions at an air base last week destroyed 20 jets and caused £1bn of damage.
And on Tuesday, a Russian ammunition depot burst into flames after it was rocked by a blast, leaving two people injured.
Ukrainian military intelligence said: "The occupiers are carrying out measures to partially transfer aviation equipment from forward-based airfields in Crimea to reserve airfields and airfields permanently based on the territory of the Russian Federation.
"Such activity was noted after a series of explosions at the military infrastructure facilities of the temporarily occupied Crimea peninsula, including at the airfields Saki and Gvardiyske."
Ukraine claimed three Su-35s, three Su-34s, five Su-27s, and three other aircraft flew back to Russia from Belbek airfield in Crimea.
Six Ka-27 helicopters and eight other choppers also fled the airfields, it was claimed.
Russia is believed to have lost at least ten warplanes in the attack on Saki airfield, which was rocked by a blast last Tuesday.
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In a speech last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the war "began with Crimea and must end with Crimea - its liberation".
Until this month, Crimea - annexed by Putin from Ukraine in 2014 - had been fairly unscathed from the war.
The retreat suggests Putin fears fresh losses on the battlefield - and the apparent Ukrainian ability to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory could indicate a dramatic shift in the war.
It comes as footage showed the moment dozens of pro-Putin fighters mutinied by refusing to head to the frontline in Donetsk, in the east of Ukraine.
The troops from so-called Luhansk People’s Republic complained of “threats, blackmail, intimidation and deception” to force them to slaughter Ukrainians - and they bluntly refused to fight.
A statement read by one of the fighters said: "We, servicemen from mobilisation reserve battalion 2740, refuse to go and fight in the Donetsk People's Republic.
"We have fulfilled our duty for the defence of the Luhansk People's Republic.
"Victory day was announced by the head of the republic on July 3, 2022.
"With threats, blackmail, intimidation and lies they are now trying to force us to the territory of the DPR."
Crimea provides the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine - where Kyiv is expected to launch a counter-offensive in coming weeks.
The Black Sea Fleet has also blocked Ukraine's ports since the start of the war, trapping vital grain exports that are only now starting to move again, and sending global food prices soaring.