Two dead after explosions on Kerch Bridge linking Crimea and Russia

The main traffic road connecting the annexed peninsula to mainland Russia, the Kerch Bridge, has been damaged by Twin explosions, resulting in the closure of the bridge and the death of two individuals.

The link rail and road, which is heavily guarded, is among the most important and high-prestige infrastructure projects of the Kremlin, connecting occupied Crimea directly to the mainland.

The second apparent attack has targeted the bridge that has been under attack since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, as Vladimir Putin follows a decree to enhance security and protect the potential from structure.

A video published by the pro-Kremlin channel 24 Crimea showed a section of the road bridge sheared off, sloping towards the Black Sea, taken from the adjacent railway bridge.

Reports of explosions around 3am local time surfaced, and vehicles en route to the bridge were halted in the early hours of Monday morning following the announcement by Sergei Aksyonov, the leader of the Russian-controlled administration in Crimea, stating that there was a “critical situation” concerning the 145th support of the bridge.

Ukraine has not taken responsibility for the attack on the much-hated symbol of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, which is the bridge. The national anti-terrorist committee of Russia later said that the attack had been carried out by two maritime drones packed with explosives.

Andriy Yusov, a representative for Ukrainian military intelligence, stated, “The Russians utilize the peninsula as a significant logistical center for transferring their forces and resources further into Ukrainian territory.” Naturally, any logistical difficulties pose additional challenges for the occupying forces.

Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia was considering its response to the attack, which he described as “pointless” and “brutal,” stating that the bridge has not been used for military transportation for a long time.

The Russian ministry of transportation affirmed that the roadway had suffered damage, yet the columns remained unharmed. This diminishes the probability of necessitating substantial repairs.

Rail service on the parallel bridge has resumed due to the resumption of long queues at checkpoints, which has resulted in Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory. Thousands of Russians who are on vacation in the annexed peninsula are now being redirected and advised not to try crossing the bridge.

A woman and man from the Belgorod region of Russia, who were accompanying their 14-year-old daughter to Crimea, tragically lost their lives in the explosion. According to Russian authorities, the daughter is currently hospitalized but her injuries are not considered to be life-threatening.

Russia announced on Monday that it would suspend its participation in a deal to export Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, a deal that was meant to alleviate a food crisis prompted by a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. The deal was brokered by Turkey and the UN last year, with the intention of delivering millions of tonnes of frozen grain to developing countries.

On Monday, the agreement was scheduled to end. In recent months, the United Kingdom had alleged that Russia was undermining the agreement, which resulted in a notable decrease in the export of grains from Ukraine before the assault.

Maria Zakharova, a representative for the foreign ministry of Russia, referred to Ukraine as “a structure of state affiliated with terrorism” and attributed the destruction of the bridge to an assault by Ukraine.

“When asked about the explosion on Monday morning, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, quoted the directorate’s head, stating that the bridge is an unnecessary structure.”

Ukrainian and international media outlets cited unnamed sources suggesting the Ukrainian domestic security service and the navy were responsible for the attack.

Last month, reports emerged that senior field commanders from Ukraine have been removed from their posts amid an attempted coup by the mercenary group Wagner. It follows the revelation that the bridge has been sabotaged, which would have caused damage if the second attack had occurred.

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In 2018, he inaugurated it according to Putin’s instructions. The bridge serves as a crucial connection for transporting troops, machinery, and resources to Moscow’s invading forces in Ukraine.

In October 2022, a massive explosion destroyed a section of the Ukraine-bound road and engulfed the link rail in flames, just a day after Putin’s birthday. Moscow has in the past boasted layers of protection, ranging from the latest weapons systems to military dolphins.

Deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar admitted in a Telegram post earlier this month that Ukraine was responsible for the truck bombing in order to disrupt Russian logistics. Although Kyiv did not initially take credit for the attack, they used the occasion of marking 500 days since Russia’s invasion.

Following the restoration of the bridge, Putin drove a Mercedes over it to Crimea, emphasizing the significance he attaches to the undertaking.

The weather during winter can make the black sea unpredictable, causing the ferries to operate at a slower pace. The only direct connection between Crimea and Russia is the 12-mile (19km) bridge.

The primary location of Moscow’s Black Sea fleet, the maritime station situated at Sevastopol harbor, has served as a logistical pathway for provisions, including nourishment, energy, and other essential resources, for Russian forces engaged in the military incursion into southern Ukraine. The road and railway bridges, running side by side, incorporate a spacious suspension span at the center to facilitate the passage of ships.

The well-protected bridge poses a less formidable objective for Ukrainian forces compared to the lengthier path via the devastated city of Mariupol, adjacent to the Sea of Azov, along the shoreline road, through the occupied regions of Ukraine. Even when the bridge is shut, Russia is still able to transport provisions to Crimea.

It does not appear, however, that the railway bridge, the main conduit for Russian military supplies to Crimea, has been significantly damaged.

George Barros, an analyst with the US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War, expressed on Twitter that if Ukraine successfully deteriorates/eliminates the bridge, Russia will solely rely on the coastal highway on the Sea of Azov to maintain (or remove) its large number of troops in occupied Kherson and Crimea. Barros emphasized that the Kerch Strait Bridge holds great importance in terms of logistics.

Despite a series of Ukrainian assaults on Russian military installations in the area, the bridge, which includes an airbase and naval ships, remains unaffected. It continues to serve as the primary pathway for Russian citizens traveling to Crimea for vacation.