A truck bomb Saturday damaged a section of a bridge linking Russia-annexed Crimea with Russia, Russian officials said, damaging a key supply route foreffort in southern Ukraine.
Images on social media Saturday showed the Kerch Bridge, which has train and automobile sections, in flames. The railway bridge was ablaze and a section of the parallel road bridge collapsed into the sea.
The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing him a humiliating blow that could lead him to up the ante in his war on Ukraine. One military analyst called it a punch in the face for Putin on his birthday, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reports.
The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament immediately accused Ukraine, though the Kremlin didn’t apportion blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the attack, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility.
The bridge opened in 2018 and is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea. It has provided an essential link to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The Peninsula holds symbolic value for Russia and is key to sustaining its military operations in the south of Ukraine. If the bridge were made inoperable, it would make it significantly more challenging to ferry supplies to the peninsula.
Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the truck bomb caused seven railway cars carrying fuel to catch fire, resulting in a “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge.”
They specified that the explosion and fire led to the collapse of the two sections of one of the two links of the automobile bridge, while another link was intact.
Russia’s Energy Ministry said Crimea has enough fuel for 15 days, adding that it was working on ways to replenish stock.
Authorities suspended passenger train traffic across the bridge until further notice. Putin was informed about the explosion and he ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.
The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament blamed Ukraine for the explosion, but downplayed the severity of the damage and said the bridge would be promptly repaired.
“Now they have something to be proud of: over 23 years of their management, they didn’t manage to build anything worthy of attention in Crimea, but they’ve managed to damage the surface of the Russian bridge,” Vladimir Konstantinov, Chairman of the State Council of the Republic, wrote on Telegram.
The parliamentary leader of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party on Saturday stopped short of claiming that Kyiv was responsible but appeared to cast it as a consequence of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and attempts to integrate the peninsula with the Russian mainland.
“Russian illegal construction is starting to fall apart and catch fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, then sooner or later it will explode,” David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People party, wrote on Telegram.
“And this is just the beginning. Of all things, reliable construction is not something Russia is particularly famous for,” he said.
Other Ukrainian officials were more celebratory while still stopping short of claiming responsibility. The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, posted a video onTwitter with the Kerch Bridge on fire on the left side and video with Marilyn Monroe singing her famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” on the right.
An advisor to Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted: “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled:”
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “the reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature.”
In August, Russia suffered a series of explosions at an airbase and munitions depot in Crimea, which underlined its vulnerability.