The Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine was harmed on Saturday by an explosion that partially collapsed a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia. According to Russian authorities, three people were killed in the blast caused by a truck bomb.
Images posted to social media on Saturday showed the Kerch Bridge, which has sections for trains and automobiles, in flames. There was a fire on the railway bridge, and part of the parallel road bridge collapsed into the water.
After turning 70 a day earlier, the bombing dealt Putin a humiliating blow that could lead him to up the ante in his war against Ukraine. The attack was characterized by one military analyst as a punch to Putin’s face on his birthday.
Late Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree tightening security for the Kerch Bridge and for energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia. The Kremlin said that the federal security service, the FSB, was responsible for the effort.
Ukraine was accused of the bombing by the speaker of the Russian-backed regional parliament in Crimea, but Moscow has yet to place blame on them. On Saturday, some Ukrainian officials praised the destruction of the bridge, after repeatedly threatening to strike it. The Ukrainian government didn’t claim responsibility, however.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy indirectly acknowledged the attack on the bridge by talking about the weather in Crimea, but did not address the reasons for it.
He said “it was a good and mostly sunny day on our state’s territory today. Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea.”
He said Ukraine wants a future “without occupiers. Throughout our territory, in particular in Crimea.”
There was a risk that the explosion would lead to a sharp escalation of Russia’s eight-month conflict, with some Russian legislators calling for Putin to declare a “counterterrorism operation” in retaliation, shedding the term “special military operation” that had minimized the extent of the conflict.
A move of this kind could be used by the Kremlin as a means of expanding security agency powers. This could include banning rallies, tightening censorship, travel restrictions, and expanding the partial military mobilization, which Putin ordered last month.
Announcing the transfer of command of all Russian troops fighting in Ukraine to the chief of the air force, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the latest development hours after the explosion. It was the first time that all Russian forces in Ukraine were under one command.
As commander of Russian forces in Syria, Surovikin was accused of overseeing a brutal bombardment that destroyed much of the city of Aleppo.
Having opened in 2018, the Kerch Bridge symbolizes Moscow’s claim to Crimea. As a result, it provides a crucial link to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. As the longest bridge in Europe, the $3.6 billion bridge is crucial to Russia’s military operations in southern Ukraine. It was Putin himself who presided over the bridge’s opening in 2018.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Blast damages Crimea bridge, key supply route in Russia’s war in Ukraine CBS News
- Putin critic weighs in on blast that hit prized Crimea bridge CNN
- Inflation Fight Continues, Crimean Bridge Damaged, ‘Swatting’ Schools : Up First NPR
- Crimea bridge blast damages key Russian supply route; 3 dead ABC7
- Putin faces more grim choices after blast hits his prized Crimea bridge CNN