The explosion damaged the Crimean bridge, a key supply route in Russia’s war in Ukraine

0
4


An explosion caused a partial collapse of a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russia on Saturday and damaged a key supply artery War in the Kremlin efforts in southern Ukraine. Russian authorities said the blast was caused by a truck bomb and three people were killed.

Images on social media on Saturday showed the Kerch Bridge, which has train and car sections, in flames. The railway bridge was in flames and part of the parallel road bridge collapsed into the sea.

The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing a humiliating blow that could set him up for greater success in the war in Ukraine. One military analyst called it a slap in the face to Putin on his birthday, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reports.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-CONFLICT-WAR-BRIDGE
Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge that connects Crimea to Russia after a truck exploded on October 8, 2022.

AFP via Getty Images


Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree late Saturday night tightening the security of the Kerch Bridge and energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was tasked with the effort, according to a Kremlin statement.

The speaker of the Russian-backed regional parliament in Crimea has blamed Ukraine for the bombing, but Moscow has denied blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to attack the bridge, and some praised its destruction on Saturday. But Kyiv did not claim responsibility.

In a video speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi indirectly acknowledged the attack on the bridge by talking about the weather in Crimea, but did not address its cause.

“Today was a good and mostly sunny day in our state,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea.”

He said Ukraine wants a future “without occupiers. All over our territory, especially in Crimea.”

The speaker of the Kremlin-backed Crimean regional parliament immediately blamed Ukraine, although the Kremlin did not admit fault. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some have praised the attack, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.

The blast risked a sharp escalation in Russia’s eight-month war, with some Russian lawmakers calling on Putin to declare an “anti-terrorist operation” in retaliation, ditching the term “special military operation” that downplayed the scope of the fighting on ordinary Russians.

Such a move could be used by the Kremlin to further expand the powers of security agencies, ban gatherings, tighten censorship, impose travel restrictions and extend the partial military mobilization that Putin ordered last month.

A few hours after the explosion, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Air Force Commander General Sergei Surovikin would be appointed commander of all Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. It was the first official appointment of a single commander for all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Surovikin led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a brutal bombardment that destroyed much of the city of Aleppo.

bridge.png

CBS News


The Kerch Bridge was opened in 2018 and is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea. It provided a vital link to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The $3.6 billion bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to sustaining Russian military operations in southern Ukraine. Putin himself presided over the opening of the bridge in 2018.

An attack on it “will further weaken Russian morale and (and) provide further support to Ukraine,” said James Nixey of Chatham House, a think tank in London. “The Russians can probably rebuild it, but they can’t defend it if they lose the war.”

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the lorry’s detonation caused seven rail cars carrying fuel to burst into flames, resulting in the “partial collapse of two parts of the bridge”. The explosion killed a man and a woman traveling in a vehicle across the bridge, Russia’s investigative committee said. It did not provide details about the third victim or what happened to the truck driver.

The blast occurred even though all vehicles crossing the bridge are screened for explosives using state-of-the-art screening systems, prompting a stream of critical comments from Russian war bloggers who urged Moscow to retaliate against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.

The truck that exploded was owned by a resident of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. Russia’s Investigative Committee said investigators searched the man’s home and were looking at the truck’s route.

Train and car traffic across the bridge was temporarily suspended. Car traffic was restored on Saturday afternoon on one of the two lines that remained intact after the blast, with flow alternating in each direction and vehicles undergoing a “full inspection,” Crimea’s regional leader Sergei Aksyonov wrote on Telegram.

Railway traffic was slowly restored. Two passenger trains left the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol and headed for the bridge on Saturday evening. The passenger ferry connection between Crimea and the Russian mainland was restored on Sunday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said troops in the south are getting needed supplies through a land corridor along the Sea of ​​Azov and by sea. Russia’s Energy Ministry said Crimea has enough fuel for 15 days.

Putin was informed of the explosion and ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.

Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, said the “terrorist attack” should serve as a wake-up call. “Special operations must be transformed into an anti-terrorist operation,” he declared.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said there would be “immediate consequences” if Ukraine was responsible. And Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia faction, said Russia should respond by attacking key Ukrainian infrastructure, including power plants, bridges and railways.

Such statements may be a harbinger of Putin’s decision to declare an anti-terrorist operation.

The speaker of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party has stopped short of saying that Kyiv is to blame, but that the bridge explosion was caused by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.

“Russian illegal constructions are starting to crumble and burn. The reason is simple: If you build something explosive, sooner or later it will explode,” said David Arakhamia from Servant of the People.

Ukraine’s post office announced it would issue stamps commemorating the explosion, just as it did after the sinking of the Russian flag cruiser Moskva by a Ukrainian strike.

The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, posted a video on Twitter of the burning Kerch Bridge and Marilyn Monroe singing her song “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in Moscow that “the response of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature.”

Local authorities in Crimea have issued conflicting statements about what a damaged bridge would mean for residents. The peninsula is a popular destination for Russian tourists and home to a Russian naval base. The Russian Tourist Board estimated that 50,000 tourists were on holiday in Crimea on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Moscow continues to suffer losses on the battlefields.

A Kremlin-backed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region announced on Saturday the partial evacuation of civilians from the southern province, one of four illegally annexed by Moscow last week. Kirill Stremousov told Russian state agency RIA Novosti that young children and the elderly may be relocated as Kherson is “preparing for a difficult period”.

.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here