Ukraine: Russia’s Crimean Bridge partially destroyed by massive explosion
The Crimean Bridge, a vital and symbolic infrastructure linking Russia to the peninsula annexed to Ukraine’s detriment in 2014, was partially destroyed on Saturday by a massive explosion that Moscow attributes to a truck bomb.
After appearing to half-acknowledge a Ukrainian attack in a tongue-in-cheek tweet on Saturday morning, Ukraine’s presidential aide Mykhailo Podoliak later pointed to a “Russian trail,” arguing that the blast was the result of an internal struggle between the FSB (Russian special forces services) and the Russian military.
In his evening speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was content to say in relation to the annexed peninsula: “Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea”, not to mention the explosion.
CCTV footage shared on social media showed a powerful explosion as several vehicles drove across the bridge, including a truck that Russian authorities suspect was the source of the blast. In other footage, we see a convoy of tank cars on fire on the railway portion of the bridge and two spans of one of the two collapsed lanes.
According to investigators, three people died in the early morning attack: the driver of the truck and two people – a man and a woman – who were driving near the blast and whose bodies were pulled from the water.
Crimea authorities announced in the afternoon that traffic for cars and buses has resumed on the bridge’s only intact lane. Trucks will now make the crossing on ferries. According to an operator of the railway line, two trains departed in the direction of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
The Russian news agency Tass reported on the night from Saturday to Sunday that rail traffic for passengers and goods had been fully resumed, albeit with delays.
The investigative committee said it had established the identity of the owner of the truck bomb, a resident of Krasnodar Krai in southern Russia, and that investigations were ongoing.
This concrete bridge, which was built at great expense on the orders of Vladimir Putin to connect the annexed peninsula with Russian territory, is used in particular to transport military equipment for the Russian army fighting in Ukraine.
If Ukraine is behind the Crimean bridge fire and explosion, the fact that such vital infrastructure could be damaged so far from the front lines by Ukrainian forces would be a snub to Moscow.
– “Terrorist nature” –
“The Crimea. The bridge. The beginning. Everything that is illegal must be destroyed, everything that has been stolen must be brought back to Ukraine,” commented Mikhailo Podoliak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Twitter this morning.
However, in a statement later issued by the Presidency, he attributed the blast to an internal struggle between the FSB and the Russian army.
“It should be noted that all indications are that the exploding truck drove into the bridge from the Russian side. So we have to look to Russia for answers (…) all this clearly points to a Russian trail.” he said.
However, Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova believed that the reactions in Kyiv showed the “terrorist nature” of the Ukrainian authorities.
The Russian army, which was in trouble on the Kherson front in southern Ukraine, gave assurances that supplies to its troops were not in jeopardy. “Supply (…) will be continuous and complete, along a land corridor and partly by sea,” she announced.
Ukraine has attacked several bridges in the Kherson region in recent months to disrupt Russian supplies, as well as military bases in Crimea, attacks it claimed responsibility for only months later.
While Moscow was initially careful not to accuse Ukraine directly, the chairman of the regional parliament appointed by Russia, Vladimir Konstantinov, denounced a coup as “Ukrainian vandals”.
The leader of the peninsula, Sergei Aksionov, tried to reassure him by saying that Crimea had a month’s worth of fuel and two months’ worth of food.
According to an official of the Russian occupation in Ukraine’s Kherson region, neighboring Crimea, Kirill Stremoussov, the repairs could take “two months”.
– New commander –
Russia has always claimed the bridge is safe despite fighting in Ukraine, but has in the past threatened Kyiv with reprisals if Ukrainian forces attack this or other infrastructure in Crimea.
Russian MP Oleg Morozov, quoted by the Ria Novosti agency, on Saturday called for an “appropriate” response. “Otherwise these kinds of terrorist attacks will multiply,” he said.
Since the beginning of September, the Russian armed forces have had to withdraw from many parts of the front. In particular, they were forced to withdraw from the Kharkiv region (northeast) and retreat to the Kherson region.
Faced with a beefed-up Ukrainian army that is heavily reliant on Western arms supplies, Vladimir Putin in late September ordered the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists and the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, despite Moscow’s only partial control of them.
The only battlefield where Russian forces currently have an advantage is the city of Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine.
In a sign of dissatisfaction among senior officials over the conduct of the operations, Moscow announced on Saturday that it had appointed a new man to head its “military special operation” in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, 55.
Finally, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which has been at the center of a standoff in southern Ukraine for months and had to be shut down, again lost its external power source due to bombing and is dependent on backup generators, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) alerted on Saturday. ), whose mission is on the ground.
The number of Thursday’s bombings in the city of the same name has risen, Ukraine’s emergency services said late Saturday night, reporting at least 17 dead (14 dead after Friday night’s last report) and 21 people rescued, including 12 hospitalized.
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