Crimea’s Kerch Bridge damaged, fuel tanks ablaze after explosion

A truck bomb on Saturday caused a fire and collapsed a section of a bridge linking Russia-annexed Crimea with Russia, a key supply artery for the war effort, Russian authorities said. Moscow’s faltering war in southern Ukraine.

The spokesman for the Kremlin-backed regional parliament immediately accused Ukraine, although the Kremlin did not blame it. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to attack the bridge and some have praised the attack, but Kyiv has since stopped claiming responsibility.

The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing a humiliating blow that could lift him to the top in the war against Ukraine.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the truck bomb had set seven fuel tankers on fire, leading to “a half-bridge collapse”.

The Crimean peninsula is of symbolic value to Russia and is key to sustaining its military operations in the south. If the bridge fails to function, it will become significantly more difficult to transport supplies to the peninsula. While Russia seized areas north of Crimea early in the invasion and built a land corridor along the Sea of ​​Azov, Ukraine is pushing for a counter-offensive to regain them.

The bridge has train and car sections. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee indicated that the explosion and fire resulted in the collapse of two segments of one of the two links of the car bridge, while the other was intact.

Russia’s Energy Ministry said Crimea had enough fuel for 15 days, and said it was looking to replenish reserves.

Authorities have suspended passenger trains crossing the bridge until further notice. Putin was informed of the explosion and he ordered the creation of a government council to deal with the emergency.

Links needed

The 19 km long bridge spanning the Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov was inaugurated in 2018 and is the longest bridge in Europe. It has provided an essential link with the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The US$3.6 billion project is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea. This was Russia’s only land link with the peninsula until Russian forces captured more Ukrainian territory at the northernmost tip of the Sea of ​​Azov in fierce skirmishes, especially around the city of Mariupol, building up an overland corridor to Crimea earlier this year.

A girl writes on a Ukrainian flag as people view an exhibition of tanks and military equipment on display next to St Michael’s Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Ed Ram/Getty Images)

A spokesman for the Kremlin-backed regional parliament blamed Ukraine for the explosion, but downplayed the severity of the damage and said it would be repaired in time.

“Now they have something to be proud of: over 23 years of their management, they have not managed to build anything remarkable in Crimea, but they managed to damage the surface of the bridge Russia,” Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of the State Council of the Republic, wrote on Telegram.

Kyiv reacts to the explosion

The parliamentary leader of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party on Saturday stopped short of claiming that Kyiv was responsible for the incident but appeared to see it as a consequence of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and efforts to integrate the peninsula with Russian mainland.

“Russian illegal construction is starting to crumble and catch on fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, it will explode sooner or later,” said David Arakhamia, leader. Servant of the People party, wrote on Telegram.

“And this is just the beginning. Of all things, reliable construction is not something for which Russia is particularly famous,” he said.

Other Ukrainian officials celebrated more while still holding off on claiming responsibility. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, posted a video on her Twitter with an image of the Kerch Bridge on fire on the left side and a video of Marilyn Monroe singing her famous song Happy Birthday President Mr. on the right.

An adviser to Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia is must be deported”.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the “reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature”.

In August, Russia suffered a series of explosions at an air base and weapons depot in Crimea, underscoring its vulnerability.

The explosion on the bridge came hours after explosions rocked the city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, early on Saturday, creating clouds of sky-high smoke and triggering a series of secondary explosions.

A woman is helped by Ukrainian firefighters to leave her shelter following Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, early Saturday. (Francisco Seco / The Associated Press)

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram that the early morning explosions were the result of missile attacks on the city center. He said the explosions ignited a fire at one of the city’s medical facilities and a non-residential building. There were no reports of casualties.

Concentrated attacks

The explosions come hours after Russia focused its attacks in its increasingly troubled invasion of Ukraine on areas it illegally annexed, while the death toll from the attacks The previous missile attack on apartment buildings in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia has increased to 14 people.

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for human rights organizations in Russia and Ukraine, and for a jailed activist in Belarus, an ally of Moscow.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the committee, said the honor went to “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence”, although it was seen as a rebuke to Putin and his waging of Europe’s worst armed conflict since the Second World. War.

Putin signed the documents on Wednesday to Illegally claiming four regions of Ukraine as Russian territoryincluding the Zaporizhzhia region, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, whose reactors were decommissioned last month.

That move was heralded by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, made after Moscow’s alleged residents voted to join Russia. That move was widely condemned, and led to sanctions from the US and the European Union.


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