According to Russian state media, the bridge that connects Crimea to Russia’s rail and road network has at least two collapsed portions. Although the road is still accessible to be traveled on, traffic has been temporarily suspended, according to the Russian highway administration.
Russian authorities said that three individuals were killed in an apparent explosion on the bridge. Since it was constructed in 2018, the bridge has been threatened with destruction by Ukrainian authorities. Similar to the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian areas this year, Russia violently took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Three portions of the bridge had collapsed, according to a study by the digital forensics company Bellingcat, impeding both train and road traffic.
The Kerch Strait Bridge, as it is commonly known, spans 12 miles of sea and has been a crucial route for trains and automobiles to enter Crimea from Russia. The peninsula is home to at least a dozen Russian military outposts, and according to Western intelligence sources, it continues to serve as a key logistical base for Russia’s conflict with mainland Ukraine. Additionally, the bridge has made it nearly hard for Ukrainian Navy warships to enter the Sea of Azov.
The partial collapse was triggered by a truck bomb, according to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, although they refrained from blaming anyone. According to Russian officials, the truck was registered in Russia’s southern area.
The Russian government is creating a special commission to look into what happened, reports the Russian news outlet Tass. An unnamed Ukrainian security official admitted responsibility for the explosion in a statement to the publication Ukrainska Pravda.
After the bridge explosion, the Russian defense ministry declared that the head of the air force, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would lead Russian forces engaged in combat in Ukraine.
A senior Ukrainian commander declared the Crimean bridge to be “target number one” in June, according to Radio Liberty. Soon after, the military intelligence of Ukraine claimed to have obtained the technical blueprints for the bridge.
Mykhailo Podoloyak, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s administration, tweeted after the bridge collapse that the events of Saturday are just “the beginning,” but he refrained from accepting responsibility.
A Ukrainian escalation may be perceived if they claim responsibility for an explosion, especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged that occupied Ukrainian territory would remain “forever” Russian. In order to protect territory he believes to be Russian territory, Putin has also threatened to deploy nuclear weapons.
After a string of unexplained explosions at Russian military locations in August, Ukraine denied assaulting Crimea. Following those explosions, tens of thousands of Russian tourists gathered on the Kerch Strait Bridge to flee.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, promised to look into leaks after unnamed Ukrainian military sources claimed responsibility for the August strikes. Oleksii Reznikov, the minister of defense for Ukraine, eventually acknowledged that strikes on Crimea are legitimate.
According to some commentators, Ukraine might not be able to destroy the Crimea bridge due to logistical issues. There aren’t many long-range aircraft and missiles in Ukraine that can cross the Kerch Strait. Bridges are notoriously difficult to destroy, especially ones with four parallel spans for both trains and automobiles, like the Kerch Bridge.
Even while some observers have claimed it could be a useful negotiating chip to de-escalate the war in the rest of Ukraine, regaining Crimea has remained an objective for Kyiv throughout the war.
Ukraine shouldn’t give up on Crimea, according to Refat Chubarov, the leader of the persecuted ethnic Tatar population in Crimea. He hailed the bridge’s destruction on Saturday and described it as a representation of Russia’s marginalization of Crimean Tatars and other pro-Ukrainian Crimeans. In addition, he expressed concern over Russians “taking out their rage on the Tatars.”
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