Vladimir Putin has suffered a significant setback after a massive explosion seriously damaged the single bridge between the Crimean peninsula and the Russian mainland, cutting off a vital supply line for Moscow’s sputtering war in Ukraine.
Images and video from the area showed that the bomb early on Saturday forced some of the Kerch Strait road and rail bridge, which Putin personally opened in 2018, to collapse. According to preliminary information, the explosion claimed the lives of at least three persons, according to Russian officials.
It is still unknown what exactly caused the explosion at Europe’s longest bridge. Russian officials said that a vehicle explosion caused the bridge’s road portion, which runs through the Crimea, to collapse. A train of fuel tanks on a different, nearby rail segment of the bridge was later completely destroyed by fire.
Putin instructed a “government panel” to look into the “situation” involving the Kerch bridge in Crimea, according to Russian state media TASS.
An official in Crimea attributed the explosion to “Ukrainian vandals.” Without taking responsibility for the tragedy themselves, some Ukrainian officials bragged about it. According to Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, “the Kyiv regime’s response to the destruction of civilian infrastructure testifies to its terrorist nature.”
The portion of the bridge that carries westbound traffic looks to have sustained substantial damage in at least two locations. Uncertain damage has been done to the rail link when the gasoline tanks caught fire.
The bridge is strategically significant because it connects the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that was denounced by the international community, to the Krasnodar area of Russia.
It is a vital route for bringing both the everyday necessities and military supplies to Crimea. Numerous Russian military convoys have utilized the bridge over the past two months to transport vehicles, armor, and gasoline.
When combined with Ukrainian advances into the Kherson region, north of Crimea, the Russian military’s supply lines to its men in southern Ukraine would grow more precarious if it couldn’t use the bridge.
Several rail stations in both Crimea and Kherson have been assaulted by long-range Ukrainian rockets. Russia has exploited the Crimean railroads to transport supplies to forces in Kherson.
After the explosion, “two spans of the roadbed of the segment [of the bridge] from Krasnodar to Kerch, collapsed,” according to Sergey Aksenov, the head of Crimea chosen by Russia, and fuel tanks on a train caught fire.
A part of the roadway appears to have fallen into the river below in video and photographs from the 19-kilometer (11-mile) bridge, although numerous burned train fuel tanks are still visible on the nearby track.
After the fire has been put out, it will be possible to determine how badly the bridge and its pillars have been damaged and to discuss when traffic will resume, according to Aksenov.
According to early information, three individuals were killed in the event, “probably the passengers of a car that was near to the blown-up truck,” the Russian Investigative Committee stated on Telegram.
According to the investigative panel, at least two bodies—a man and a woman—were pulled from the water, and their identification were being confirmed.
According to records, the truck that detonated belonged to someone in the Krasnodar region of Russia; authorities are now looking into the owner’s residence and attempting to ascertain the truck’s path.
The Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov and is where important Ukrainian ports like Mariupol are located, is crossed by the bridge. The bridge represents the “reunification” of Crimea with the Russian mainland physically in Russia.
There have been no other announcements on the commission’s timeframe or purview.
According to Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, there are “no forecasts for the date of the repair of the Crimean bridge yet,” according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
An official in Crimea accused “Ukrainian vandals” of the crime.
“Vandals from Ukraine found a way to get their bloodied paws on the Crimean bridge. They can now be pleased of the fact that, despite 23 years of economic activity, they failed to construct anything in Crimea deserving of attention. However, they were successful in destroying the Russian bridge’s roadbed, according to Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of the Crimean State Council.
“This is the fundamental nature of the Kiev government and the Ukrainian state… Naturally, the accident’s causes will be looked into, and the damage will be quickly remedied,” he added.
CNN is unable to independently confirm Konstantinov’s assertion.
Ukraine responds to the blast
Officials from Ukraine made fun of Russia for the explosion without mentioning that they were behind the strike.
The Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted a video showing a piece of the bridge’s road that had been entirely damaged on Facebook and asked, “Air defense of the Russian Federation, are you sleeping?”
“Illegal construction in Russia is beginning to burn and collapse. The explanation is straightforward: if you construct something explosive, it will detonate eventually. David Arakhamia, the leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party in parliament and a member of Kyiv’s negotiating team with Russia, commented on the incident in a Telegram statement.
A video showing the destroyed Kerch bridge and a footage of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” which she sang for President John F. Kennedy in 1962, were shared online by Oleksiy Danilov, a top official from Ukraine. On Friday, Putin turned 70.
Oleksii Hromov, a senior member of the General Staff, claimed on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had taken control of more than 2,400 square kilometers and advanced 55 kilometers in the north-east since September 21.
Hromov seemed to be alluding to successes in the Kharkiv region that had been made before September 21 but had not yet been officially acknowledged.
The enemy is attempting a counterattack in the direction of Kherson at the expense of reserves in an effort to halt the advance of our soldiers and retake lost territory. 29 settlements have been taken under [our] control since October 1st, he claimed.
In an August interview, a top military commander from Ukraine claimed that the Kerch bridge was a viable target.
Maj. Gen. Dmytro Marchenko stated in an interview with RBC-Ukraine that “this is a necessary move in order to deprive them (Russia) of the opportunity to send reserves and replenish their soldiers from Russian territory.”
Bridge from Russia to Crimea
Putin opened the Kerch bridge in 2018, and according to state news agency RIA Novosti, it can transport 40,000 automobiles per day, 14 million people, and 13 million tons of freight annually.
In a swift operation in February 2014, camouflage-clad Russian special soldiers without unit insignia took control of Crimea. Russia first denied that its soldiers had completed the mission. Later, it admitted that the ‘little green men’ were in fact Russian forces. Rapidly adopting crushing economic sanctions, the West replied.
The United States denounced the bridge’s construction as unlawful when it opened.
According to a US State Department statement at the time, “Russia’s construction of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia’s persistent propensity to defy international law.”
The Kerch Strait, which is the only way to get to Ukraine’s territorial seas in the Sea of Azov, is blocked by the bridge, which not only symbolizes Russia’s attempt to solidify its illegal invasion and occupation of Crimea but also hinders navigation.
Following the explosion, Ukrainian government representatives repeated those opinions.
“Crimea, the starting point, the bridge. According to Mykhailo Podoliak, a counselor to the president of Ukraine, “anything that is illegal must be destroyed, everything that has been stolen must be restored to Ukraine, and everything that Russia has captured must be ejected.
east Ukraine train struck
In the meantime, a “huge explosion” Saturday morning struck a cargo train in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region, according to Petro Andrushenko, the mayor of Mariupol’s advisor.
“Not just the Crimea. Including fuel tanks. Ilovaisk also has a freight train. Locals claim to have heard a nighttime explosion and detonation that was fairly loud. According to Andrushenko, the occupants are currently having major issues with supplies coming from both sides.
The incident involving the cargo train was confirmed by pro-Russian officials in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, who on Saturday released video of what happened after the fire broke out at a nearby railroad station.
The fire was started by shelling “by Ukrainian militants,” according to a Telegram post from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. The claim cannot be independently verified by CNN.
As his troops continues to suffer defeats in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden expressed caution about the risks posed by Putin’s nuclear threats on Thursday.
As he warned during remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in New York on Thursday night, “for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use (of a) nuclear bomb.”
“I don’t think there is any way to quickly (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not have Armageddon,” he continued.
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