A New Shock For Russia
The Kerch bridge from Russia to Crimea, a hated symbol of the Kremlin’s occupation of the southern Ukrainian peninsula and one of Vladimir Putin’s prestige projects, has been hit by a huge explosion.
The explosion, which witnesses said could be heard miles away, took place before 6am on Saturday while a train was crossing the bridge.
“Today at 6.07am on the road traffic side of the Crimean bridge, a car bomb exploded, setting fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea,” Russian news agencies said, citing the national anti-terrorism committee.
Some footage, however, shared on Russian Telegram channels and news agencies appeared to show the moment of the explosion with two vehicles, a truck and a car, at the centre of the blast, although it was unclear whether either was responsible or simply caught up in the detonation.
The bridge, which was built on the orders of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and inaugurated in 2018, was a key transport link for carrying military equipment to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, especially in the south, as well as ferrying troops there. Some 12 miles (19km) long, the road bridge was opened by Putin in 2018, with the railway bridge opening two years later.
Russia had maintained the bridge was safe despite the fighting in Ukraine but had threatened Kyiv with reprisals if it was attacked.
Damage to the road section of the bridge showed the carriageway appeared to have been cleanly severed with no obvious sign of a missile strike in the images to emerge, leading some to suggest the attack on the bridge might have been a spectacular act of sabotage.
The bridge is both highly symbolic to Russia and an important logistical supply route for Russian forces in Crimea and in southern Russian-occupied Ukraine. The damage to the railway line in particular leaves Russian forces in the south with a single railway supply line – between Krasnodar and Melitopol – and one now within range of Ukraine attacks.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion reports emerged of residents in the Crimea rushing to petrol stations anxious about fuel shortages.
As in previous attacks in Crimea, official Russian sources were initially extremely vague about the cause of the blast with the news service saying a fuel tanker was involved. “According to preliminary data, a fuel tank car has been on fire at one of the sections of the Crimean bridge, shipping arches aren’t damaged, said Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Russian occupation head of the Crimea.
However, video footage taken from the road span appeared to show fires burning fiercely in several railway trucks along the length of the train, with the train stationary on the bridge.
Commenting on the attack in a thread on Twitter, analysts and retired Australian general Mick Ryan said: “First dropping a bridge span like this would take a lot of ‘bang’ (explosives) and good demolition design. As a sapper, we plan these kind of things all the time.
The hardest bridges to drop are reinforced concrete like this. “The amount of explosive required would be more than a few SF personnel could carry. A few trucks, or missiles / bombs would do the trick, if aimed at the right points of the bridge span.
The fire occurred hours after explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early Saturday, sending towering plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of secondary explosions.