On Saturday, an explosion partially brought down a bridge that connects the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, destroying a vital supply route for the Kremlin’s sputtering military campaign in southern Ukraine. Russian authorities said that the bomb claimed the lives of three persons.
Although Moscow did not assign responsibility, the speaker of Crimea’s regional parliament, which is supported by the Kremlin, instantly condemned Ukraine. While others applauded the attack and Ukrainian officials repeatedly threatened to destroy the bridge, Kyiv refrained from taking credit. Putin was dealt a humiliating blow by the bombing, which occurred the day after he turned 70 and may have caused him to escalate his campaign against Ukraine.
According to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a truck bomb set seven fuel-carrying railroad carriages on fire, which led to the “partial collapse of two parts of the bridge.” The explosion killed a man and a woman who were travelling across the bridge in a car, and their remains were found, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. It gave no information on the third victim.
The longest bridge in Europe, spanning the 19 kilometres (12 miles) of Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, opened for traffic in 2018. The $3.6 billion undertaking serves as a concrete representation of Moscow’s rights to the Crimean Peninsula and has established a vital connection to the peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The peninsula is significant to Russia’s military activities in the south of Ukraine and has symbolic significance for it. Transporting goods to Crimea would be considerably more difficult if the bridge were rendered unusable. Ukraine is waging a counteroffensive to retake the territories that Russia annexed north of Crimea early in the invasion and established a land corridor to it along the Sea of Azov.
The bridge features parts for both trains and cars. According to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, one of the two links of the automotive bridge collapsed due to the explosion and fire, while the other link remained standing.
The Crimea has adequate gasoline, according to Russia’s Energy Ministry, who also noted that it was looking into methods to restock the supply. Until further notice, authorities have halted cross-bridge passenger train service. After learning of the explosion, Putin commanded the formation of a government committee to handle the crisis.
The explosion was attributed on Ukraine by the speaker of Crimea’s regional parliament, which is supported by the Kremlin, who also minimised the extent of the damage and promised that the bridge would be quickly rebuilt.
Vladimir Konstantinov, the head of the State Council of the Republic, posted on Telegram, “Now they have something to be proud of: over 23 years of their management, they didn’t manage to build anything worthy of attention in Crimea, but they have managed to damage the surface of the Russian bridge.”
On Saturday, the legislative leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party refrained from directly attributing blame to Kiev, instead appearing to frame it as a result of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea and efforts to unite the peninsula with the Russian mainland.
“Illegal building in Russia is beginning to collapse and catch fire. The explanation is straightforward: if you create something explosive, it will blow sooner or later, according to David Arakhamia, the Servant of the People party’s chairman, in a Telegram post.
And this is only the start. Russia isn’t really known for trustworthy building, of all things,” he added. Other Ukrainian officials were more jubilant, although they refrained from taking blame.
The Ukrainian postal office said in a statement that it will publish stamps honouring the explosion, citing the use of vintage movie posters in the artwork to emphasise the bridge’s “sacred value” to Moscow. A set of stamps commemorating the loss of the Russian flagship cruiser Moskva by a Ukrainian attack in late May was previously produced by the postal office.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, shared a video on Twitter that showed the Kerch Bridge on fire on the left and Marilyn Monroe singing her well-known “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” on the right.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Zelenskyy adviser, tweeted: “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything that is unlawful must be destroyed, everything that has been taken must be given back to Ukraine, and everything that Russia has captured must be ejected.
According to Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow, “the Kyiv regime’s reaction to the destruction of civilian infrastructure demonstrates its terrorist nature.” Russia’s vulnerability was highlighted in August by a string of explosions at an airfield and an armament stockpile in Crimea.
Local authorities in Crimea gave conflicting accounts of what the damaged bridge would imply for locals and their ability to purchase consumer goods on the peninsula, which is home to Sevastopol, a significant city, and a naval base. The peninsula is a popular year-round sun-and-sea destination for Russian tourists.
In an effort to prevent a panicked run on supplies, Mikhail Razvozhayev, the head of Sevastopol, initially announced a ban on the sales of car fuel in canisters and said that the sales of groceries will be limited to 3 kilograms per person. However, he quickly reversed course and said that there will be no restrictions an hour later.
He also tried to reassure the locals by reassuring them that they were still connected to the mainland. He said that the ferry crossing at the Crimean Bridge had begun operations and that there were land passages across the new areas. At the time of the explosion, according to the Association of Russian Travel Agencies, there were roughly 50,000 visitors vacationing in Crimea. Ilya Umansky, the president of Russia’s leading tourist organization, told the Interfax news agency that boat services between the peninsula and the mainland had resumed on Saturday, but he also acknowledged that anybody attempting to visit Crimea in the coming days would likely encounter “some inconvenience.”
The explosion on the bridge happened hours after explosives early on Saturday morning in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, which sent towering plumes of smoke into the sky and set off a string of subsequent explosions.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, was allegedly bombarded by Russian surface-to-air missiles, according to Ukrainian officials, who also claimed at least one person was hurt. Oleh Sinehubov, the regional governor, said on Telegram that Saltivka and Osnovianskiy, which are primarily residential districts, were the targets of the attacks.
According to Sinehubov, Russia used S-300s missiles in the attack. If accurate, this would be the most recent incident in which Moscow was said to have used a weapon intended for air defense to hit ground targets, potentially due to a lack of better ammunition.
Five towns and villages were targeted overnight, according to reports from Ukrainian officials in the northern Sumy area, west of Kharkiv and a frequent target of Russian shelling and missile assaults. The regional governor, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, reported the death of a 51-year-old citizen on Telegram.
Additionally, three communities near the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia, were hit by Russian missiles. According to Valentyn Reznichenko, the regional governor, no one was hurt during the attacks on Marganets, Chervonohryhorivka, and Myrove.
Meanwhile, the number of fatalities from earlier missile attacks on residential complexes in Zaporizhzhia increased to 17, according to Ukrainian rescue services. Twenty-one people had been rescued from the wreckage of a four-story apartment building, according to a Telegram post from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, and search and rescue operations were still ongoing.
On Thursday, more least 40 residential buildings in the Ukrainian-controlled city—which serves as the capital of the territory Moscow sought to illegitimately acquire last week—were destroyed by Russian missiles. The name-brand nuclear power station, one of the biggest in the world, is located across a sizable reservoir on the Dnieper river from the town of Zaporizhzhia.
The devastating attacks came hours after the president of Ukraine declared that his country’s forces had retaken three more villages in one of the four districts that Russia claimed as its own, marking Moscow’s most recent battlefield turnabout.