Kharkiv, October 8 (PTI/AP): An explosion on Saturday caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to Russia, damaging a key supply artery for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine. Three people were killed in the blast, Russian authorities said.
The speaker of the Kremlin-backed Crimean regional parliament immediately blamed Ukraine, although Moscow did not blame.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some have welcomed the attack, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.
The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, inflicting a humiliating blow that could see him raise the bar in his war on Ukraine.
Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said a truck bomb set fire to seven wagons carrying fuel, causing two sections of the bridge to partially collapse.
A man and a woman who were riding in a vehicle on the bridge were killed by the blast and their bodies were found, the Russian investigative committee said. He did not provide details about the third victim.
The 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge across the Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov opened in 2018 and is the longest in Europe.
The $3.6 billion project is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea and has provided a vital link to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The peninsula has symbolic value for Russia and is essential to support its military operations in southern Ukraine.
If the bridge were rendered inoperable, it would be much more difficult to transport supplies to Crimea. While Russia seized areas north of Crimea at the start of the invasion and built a land corridor there along the Sea of Azov, Ukraine is launching a counter-offensive to reclaim them.
The bridge has train and automobile sections. The Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee specified that the explosion and the fire caused 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 had enough fuel for 15 days, adding that it was working on ways to replenish stocks.
Authorities have suspended passenger train traffic on the bridge until further notice. Putin was informed of the explosion and he ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.
The speaker of the Kremlin-backed Crimean regional parliament blamed Ukraine for the blast, but downplayed the severity of the damage and said the bridge would be quickly repaired.
Now they have something to be proud of: in 23 years of management they have not managed to build anything in the Crimea worthy of attention, but they have managed to damage the surface of the Russian bridge, Vladimir Konstantinov, Chairman of the Council of ‘State of the Republic, wrote on Telegram.
The parliamentary leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party on Saturday refrained from saying that Kyiv was responsible, but appeared to attribute it to the aftermath of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and attempts to integrate the peninsula to the Russian mainland.
Illegal Russian construction begins to collapse and catch fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, it will explode sooner or later, Servant of the People party leader David Arakhamia wrote on Telegram.
And that’s 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 pausing before claiming responsibility.
Ukraine’s postal service said it would issue stamps commemorating the explosion, saying in a statement that the images would be inspired by classic movie posters to highlight the bridge’s sacred significance to Moscow. The Postal Service previously issued a set of stamps commemorating the sinking of the Moskva, a Russian flagship cruiser, by a Ukrainian strike in late May.
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov posted a video on Twitter with the burning Kerch Bridge on the left side and a video with Marilyn Monroe singing her famous Happy Birthday Mr. President on the right.
An adviser 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 the Kyiv regime’s reaction to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature.
In August, Russia suffered a series of explosions at an airbase and an ammunition depot in Crimea, underscoring its vulnerability.
Local authorities in Crimea have made conflicting statements about what the damaged bridge would mean for residents and their ability to buy consumer goods on the peninsula, a popular year-round sun and sea destination for Russian tourists that is home to Sevastopol , a key city and naval base.
Reflecting the tensions, Mikhail Razvozhayev, the leader of Sevastopol, initially announced a ban on car fuel sales in canisters and said grocery sales would be limited to 3 kilograms per person to avoid a panicked race for supplies, but then changed course. just an hour later, saying there will be no restrictions.
At the same time, he sought to appease the locals, insisting that they were not cut off from the mainland.
There are land corridors via the New Territories and the ferry crossing near the Crimean Bridge has started operating, he said.
The Association of Russian Tourist Agencies estimated that around 50,000 tourists were vacationing in Crimea at the time of the blast. The head of Russia’s main tourism body, Ilya Umansky, told Interfax that ferry connections were restarted on Saturday between the peninsula and the mainland, but admitted that those looking to enter Crimea in the coming days must have felt some discomfort.
The blast at the bridge came hours after blasts rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early Saturday, sending towering plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of thunderstorms. secondary explosions.
Ukrainian officials accused Russia of pounding Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with surface-to-air missiles and said at least one person was injured. The strikes targeted the largely residential neighborhoods of Saltivka and Osnovianskiy, regional governor Oleh Sinehubov said on Telegram.
Sinehubov said Russia deployed S-300 missiles in the strike. If true, it would mark the latest in a series of instances where Moscow has repurposed a weapon originally designed for air defense to strike ground targets, possibly due to a shortage of more suitable ammunition. .
Ukrainian authorities in the northern Sumy region, west of Kharkiv and a frequent target of Russian shelling and missile attacks, also reported on Saturday that five towns and villages had been hit overnight. Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the regional governor, said on Telegram that a 51-year-old civilian had been killed.
Russian rockets also hit three towns facing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. Regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said no one was hurt in the strikes on the towns of Marganets, Chervonohryhorivka and Myrove.
The death toll, meanwhile, from missile strikes on apartment buildings in Zaporizhzhia has risen to 17, Ukrainian emergency services reported.
Ukraine’s National Emergency Service wrote on Telegram that 21 people had been rescued from the rubble of a four-story building and search and rescue work was continuing.
Russian missiles on Thursday damaged more than 40 apartment buildings in the Ukrainian-held city, which is the official capital of a region that Moscow moved to illegally annex last week. Zaporizhzhia is opposite a wide reservoir on the Dnieper River from the nuclear power plant of the same name, one of the largest in the world.
The deadly strikes came hours after Ukraine’s president announced his army had recaptured three more villages in another of Russia’s four claimed regions, the latest reversal of Moscow’s battlefield.