Kerch Bridge linking Russia and Crimea catches fire after explosion

Kyiv, Ukraine — A huge explosion on the Crimea Bridge, a strategic link between mainland Russia and Crimea, occurred early Saturday in what appeared to be a stunning blow to a symbol of President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to control Ukraine.

The damage to the bridge, which provides road and rail connections to the Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia and the Kremlin in 2014, is another serious setback for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, disrupting a vital supply route.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged that the government has no timetable for repairing the 12-mile bridge.

Russia’s top law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, said that when a freight train crossed a bridge, the truck exploded and set off a fuel tanker. The cause of the truck explosion is unclear. After the explosion, thick smoke and flames were visible from a distance.

In 2018, Putin personally opened the $4 billion bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge because it spans the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov. The bridge was opened to symbolize Russian ownership of Crimea.

Russia’s 2014 invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea was a precursor to Putin’s invasion this year, and the peninsula has been used as the main base of operations for Russian troops. Russia claims to have annexed four other Ukrainian regions.

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The explosion was celebrated in Kyiv, and government officials welcomed it and posted pictures on social media collapsed concrete span bridge and lens The apparent moment of the explosion, showing the vehicle driving over the bridge seconds before a massive fireball engulfed the area.

Mykhailo Podoloyak, senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, called it “the beginning”. “Everything that breaks the law must be destroyed” Podolac added on twitter. The Ukrainian government did not immediately issue an official statement on the cause of the explosion.But in mockery, the government’s official Twitter account post: “Sick fever.”

A Ukrainian government official told The Washington Post on Saturday that Ukrainian special forces were behind the bridge attack. The Ukrainska Pravda news site first reported the government’s alleged role, citing an unidentified law enforcement official as saying that Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, was involved.

Ukraine has previously launched bold attacks deep within Russian-held territory, including an airbase in Crimea and military targets on the border in Russia’s Belgorod region. But if the bridge bombing is confirmed to be planned, it would be the most shocking strike yet in Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia’s larger and better-equipped military since late February.

Russian authorities said the explosion occurred around 6 a.m. local time. A video published by government newspaper Izvestia appeared to show at 6.03am initial information that three people were dead, including the driver of the truck who appeared to explode and two whose bodies were salvaged from the water, the inquiry said.

The commission of inquiry said the truck driver had been identified as a resident of Russia’s Krasnodar region. “An investigation has begun at his place of residence,” it said. “Truck routes and related documents are being studied.”

Russian officials have long warned of harsh retaliation for attacks on Russian soil.

The explosions have injected new tension into the war at a time when Putin and those around him have repeatedly warned that Russia could use nuclear weapons. President Biden’s warning this week of a possible nuclear “doomsday” reflected the heightened vigilance of the United States, which has the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal after Russia.

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Ukrainian parliament, The Verkhovna Rada tweeted a photo of the damaged bridge and said: “@crimealong time no see” and the heart emoji. And the Ukrainian postal chief Say The agency will issue a new stamp with a damaged bridge: “Crimea Bridge – Completed.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova addressed the flood of memes and mocking social media posts from Ukraine. “The response of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature,” Zakharova said in a Telegram post. Throughout the war, Russia has repeatedly bombed Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, including train stations, residential areas, hospitals, schools and theaters.

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Russian Duma lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said retaliation was “inevitable” if Ukraine’s responsibility was confirmed. “The answer has to be harsh, but not necessarily positive,” he said. “Russia has a lot of experience fighting terrorists, and those who use their methods should also know that very well.”

Peskov said Putin had been briefed by ministers and government authorities on the “emergency” on the bridge and ordered the creation of a commission of inquiry, including Crimean Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Crimean officials and the Russian security service FSB.

Peskov said the committee had been instructed to “find out the reasons behind the accident and eliminate the consequences as soon as possible,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.

The Investigative Committee said a criminal case had been opened for the incident and forensic experts had been dispatched to the scene.

The bridge is the only direct road and rail link from mainland Russia to Crimea. The paralysis of such a key artery will affect Russia’s ability to reinforce and supply troops as Ukraine launches a counteroffensive to retake occupied territory in the southern region of Kherson.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have accelerated their advance towards Russian-occupied towns and villages, the Kharkiv region in the northeast, Donetsk in the east and Kherson in the south.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Russian troops would receive “continuous support” north of Crimea.

“Russian troops involved in special military operations in the Nikolaev-Krivorozhsk and Zaporozhisk operational directions continue to be supplied entirely by land corridors, with some Supplied by sea transport.” News Agency.

The extent of the damage to the bridge, and whether there is any damage to allow for vehicular traffic, is not yet known. Peskov told Ria Novosti that there are “no predictions about the timing of reconstruction” in the affected areas.

While Russian Railways canceled all passenger services to and from Crimea and said it would refund tickets free of charge, the transport ministry later said it expected train services to resume on Saturday night.

Russian authorities immediately sought to allay fears that the explosion would cause shortages of fuel, food and other essentials in Crimea, noting that Russia’s military occupation has created Putin’s long-sought “land bridge” to Crimea.

“A land corridor has been established through the new area,” said Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Crimean head of state.

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Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozaev initially cited the rush to buy gasoline and announced a limit to three kilograms or three packs of groceries per person, but It was later said that the restrictions had been lifted.

Crimea regional chief Sergei Aksyonov said that once the survey is completed, the reconstruction of the bridge will begin. “There is no risk in this regard and no reason to panic,” he said, according to TASS. “Through our joint efforts, we will overcome everything. There is no doubt about it.”

Abakumova reported from Riga, Latvia. Isabelle Khurshudyan and Kamila Hrabchuk in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, and Kostiantyn Khudov in Kyiv contributed to this report.

Ukraine war: what you need to know

Newest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday to annex four occupied parts of Ukraine after a referendum held widely denounced as illegal. Follow us here for live updates.

response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia in response to the annexation, targeting government officials and families, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Friday that Ukraine was applying for “accelerated accession” to NATO, in an apparent response to annexation.

In Russia: Putin announced a military mobilization on September 9. 21st to call up as many as 300,000 reservists to dramatically reverse his setback in the Ukraine war. The announcement led to the exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men serving in the military, and reignited protests and other anti-war behavior.

Fight: Ukraine launched a successful counteroffensive, forcing Russia to conduct a massive retreat in the northeastern region of Kharkiv in early September, as troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned vast quantities of military equipment.

photo: Photographers for The Washington Post have been on the ground since the war began — some of their most influential work.

How you can help: Here’s how Americans can support the people of Ukraine, and people around the world have been giving.

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