The Kremlin’s already shaky war effort in southern Ukraine took a major hit on October 8 when an explosion damaged a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula with Russia. According to Russian officials, three people perished in the explosion.
Crimea’s regional parliament speaker immediately pointed the finger at Ukraine but Moscow didn’t take sides. Officials in Ukraine have threatened to attack the bridge on multiple occasions and some have even applauded this latest attack. However, Kyiv has refrained from taking responsibility for it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was dealt a humiliating blow the day after his 70th birthday by the bombing which may prompt him to step up his war against Ukraine.
Seven fuel-carrying railway cars caught fire after a truck bomb detonated, according to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, leading to the “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge.”
The bodies of a man and a woman who were driving across the bridge at the time of the blast have been found, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. The article failed to mention the third victim.
The Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is the longest in Europe at 19 kilometers (12 miles) and opened to the public in 2018.
Europe’s Longest Bridge, Key To Crimea
The $3.6 billion project is an important link to the Crimean Peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. It is also a visible symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea.
Russia’s military operations in the south of Ukraine rely heavily on the peninsula which has significant symbolic value for Moscow.
If the bridge were destroyed, it would be much more difficult to transport goods to Crimea. Russia took control of territory to the north of Crimea early in the invasion and they have since built a land corridor to Crimea along the Sea of Azov. Ukraine is now launching a counteroffensive to retake this territory.
Both trains and cars can use the bridge. The explosion and fire caused the two sections of one of the two links of the automobile bridge to collapse but the other link remained standing as stated by Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee.
The Russian Ministry of Energy has stated that Crimea has enough fuel to last for 15 days and that plans are underway to replenish supplies.
Until further notice, authorities have stopped allowing passenger trains to use the bridge. After learning of the explosion, Putin established a government commission to deal with the crisis.
The explosion was blamed on Ukraine by the speaker of the regional parliament in Crimea, who also downplayed the damage and promised a speedy repair of the bridge.
Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of the State Council of the Republic, said 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’ve managed to damage the surface of the Russian bridge.”
On Saturday, the parliamentary leader of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party appeared to cast it as a consequence of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and attempts to integrate the peninsula with the Russian mainland without actually saying that Kyiv was responsible.
“Illegal building in Russia is collapsing and catching fire. David Arakhamia, leader of the Servant of the People party explained why on Telegram: “The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, sooner or later it will explode.”
Meanwhile in Crimea:
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 8, 2022
This is only the beginning, by the way. The reliable building is not something Russia is known for, he said. Still others in the Ukrainian government celebrated the victory without taking credit for it.
In a statement, the Ukrainian postal service announced that it would issue stamps commemorating the blast with designs inspired by vintage movie posters to emphasize the bridge’s “sacred significance” to Moscow. Before now, a set of stamps had been issued remembering the May sinking of the Russian flagship cruiser Moskva by a Ukrainian strike.
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov tweeted a split-screen video of the burning Kerch Bridge and Marilyn Monroe performing “Happy Birthday Mr. President.”
One of Mr. Zelenskyy’s advisors, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted, “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Nothing can be tolerated, all illegal items must be destroyed, all stolen items must be returned to Ukraine and all Russian occupiers must be expelled.
Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled. pic.twitter.com/yUiSwOLlDP
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) October 8, 2022
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova of Russia said, “the reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature.” Russia’s vulnerability was highlighted in August when explosions occurred at an airbase and munitions depot in Crimea.
Crimea is a popular year-round sun-and-sea destination for Russian tourists and it is home to Sevastopol, a key city and naval base. However, local authorities in Crimea have made contradictory statements about the impact of the damaged bridge on residents and their ability to buy consumer goods on the peninsula.
Head of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev initially announced a ban on sales of car fuel in canisters and said that sales of groceries will be limited to 3 kilograms per person to avoid a panicky run on supplies but then reversed course just an hour later, saying there will be no restrictions.
Meanwhile, he tried to reassure locals by saying they weren’t completely separated from the mainland. ‘Land corridors’ have been established through the new territories and ferry service has begun near the Crimean Bridge, he said.
Russia’s travel agencies have estimated that roughly 50,000 people were vacationing in Crimea when the explosion occurred. Ilya Umansky, head of Russia’s top tourism body told the Interfax agency that ferries had resumed service between the peninsula and the mainland as of Saturday but that visitors to Crimea in the coming days could expect “some discomfort.”
Hours earlier, on Saturday morning, explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, sending towering plumes of smoke into the sky and setting off a series of secondary explosions, the blast on the bridge occurred within those hours.
At least one person was injured, according to Ukrainian officials, after they accused Russia of using surface-to-air missiles to rain destruction on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Oleh Sinehubov, governor of the region claimed on Telegram that the attacks were directed at the residential neighborhoods of Saltivka and Osnovianskiy.
According to Mr. Sinehubov, Russia used S-300 missiles in the attack. If this is true, it would be the latest instance in which Moscow has been accused of using an air defense weapon against ground targets, possibly due to a lack of other available munitions.
Meanwhile, five towns and villages were reported hit overnight by Ukrainian authorities in the northern Sumy region which is west of Kharkiv and a frequent target of Russian shelling and missile attacks. The regional governor, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi announced the death of a 51-year-old civilian man via Telegram.
Three towns were hit by Russian rockets that were aimed at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia. Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the region, said that in the attacks on the cities of Margarets, Chervonohryhorivka, and Myrove, no one was hurt.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian emergency services reported that 17 people had been killed by earlier missile strikes on apartment buildings in Zaporizhzhia.
Twenty-one people were pulled alive from a collapsed four-story apartment building, according to a Telegram post by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.
More than 40 apartment buildings were damaged by Russian missiles on Thursday in the city which is under Ukrainian control but is the official capital of a region that Moscow illegally annexed last week. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located across a large reservoir on the Dnieper from the city itself.
The deadly attacks occurred just hours after the president of Ukraine announced that Ukrainian forces had retaken three villages in another of Russia’s four claimed regions.