A heavy blow to President Vladimir Putin more than seven months after his invasion of Ukraine, an explosion ripped open a Russian bridge across the Kerch Strait into Crimea early Saturday.
Russia’s anti-terrorism commission said a truck exploded along the roadside of the bridge early Saturday morning, setting fire to seven fuel tanks on a railway bridge running along the bridge.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered senior officials and security services to investigate the explosion, which sent huge clouds of smoke billowing into the sky as flames raged, collapsing two road spans of a bridge and part of a railway line. was burnt.
An overt attack is another humiliation for Russia. Invasion of Ukrainewas originally designed to capture Kyiv in a matter of days, but continues to struggle.
The bridge is the main conduit to the supply Russiawar effort in the southeast of UkraineLast week, President Putin made a major withdrawal of its troops from territory claimed by Russia after annexing four regions of Ukraine.
Putin has tried to up the stakes by claiming the territory as Russian territory after a series of battlefield setbacks. He allowed aggression to be reframed as a defensive war, justified the mobilization of military reserves, and heightened the threat of Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons. Ukraine tried to take back her territory.
On the contrary, the quagmire only deepens. While many Russians have fled to Kazakhstan to escape military service, Ukraine continues to advance in the east and south, with some Russian officials and state television issuing rare public criticism of the Moscow military. is causing
This 12-mile bridge was conceived when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and was completed in 2018. This is an engineering feat. War – and has become a symbol of Russian prestige.
Putin opened the bridge in 2018. drove a truck across it Alongside his childhood judo sparring partner Arkady Lautenberg, he’s the billionaire responsible for building it.
It straddles the route connecting the export ports of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, making it an important artery for shipping.
Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility for the attack, but hailed the collapse of the bridge.
“Crimea, bridge, beginning,” tweeted Mikhail Podryak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who posted a photo of a bridge that had collapsed into the sea.
“Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, and everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.”
Andriy Yermak, President Zelensky’s chief of staff, tweeted two photos of the bridge.
Zelensky’s Director of National Security, Oleksiy Danilov, tweeted a video of the blown-up bridge and a video of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to the then-President of the United States. John F. Kennedy 1962. Friday was President Putin’s 70th birthday.
Ukraine’s defense ministry, military intelligence and a spokesperson for President Zelensky declined to comment.
Western diplomats in Kyiv seeking information about the explosion were told by Ukrainian officials that the Ukrainian military had evidence that fuel tanks on the railway bridge were on their way to the army’s supply depot. Officials did not come to take credit for the attack, according to one diplomat, but the allegation implied that the Ukrainian government considered the fuel tanks to be military and therefore legitimate targets. there is
In response to the blast, a senior EU official noted that the construction of the bridge “was carried out without Ukraine’s consent and constitutes a new violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, adding that Crimea “has been under siege by Russia since 2014.” It has been illegally merged,” he said.
Daniel Virac, a member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces and a Canadian lawyer living in Kyiv, said the apparent attack “drives Russians insane and increases their sense of panic and vulnerability, while at the same time causing an already stretched “It’s likely to seriously damage our supply lines.” ”.
A number of critical infrastructure and military targets have been bombed in western Russia and Crimea since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.
Kyiv did not go so far as to formally claim responsibility for the attack, but mocked Russia’s attempt to reassure the public by blaming the explosions on mundane causes such as gas leaks.
Photos shared on social media on Saturday showed flames engulfing parts of the bridge and smoke rising to the water.
Dashboard camera footage appeared to capture the moment of the explosion and showed several cars on the road when the explosion occurred. FT was unable to verify the footage.
Other footage appeared to show structural damage and part of the highway submerged in the strait.
Russian officials said they had extinguished the fire and closed the bridge to rail and road traffic.
Russian investigators said three people were killed in the attack. They claimed people were in cars that drove past the truck when it exploded. Investigators added that the truck belonged to a resident of the nearby Russian province of Krasnodar, who had launched a search of his home.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, said it was too early to tell how long it would take Russia to rebuild the bridge.
Additional reporting by Mehul Srivastava, Kyiv, Henry Foy, Brussels, and John Paul Rathbone and Christopher Miller, London
https://www.ft.com/content/d3db052a-2471-4c45-849d-21c58e58ffd9 Explosion destroys bridge to Crimea in Russia