Europe 1 with AFP
19:14, on 8 October 2022
The Crimean Bridge, an important and symbolic piece of infrastructure linking Russia to the peninsula annexed in 2014 to the detriment of Ukraine, was partially destroyed on Saturday by a huge explosion that Moscow attributed to a truck bomb. CCTV footage shared on social media showed a loud explosion as several vehicles drove across the bridge, including a truck that Russian authorities suspect was the source of the blast. In other shots, we can see a convoy of tankers in flames on the railway part of the bridge, and several sections of one of the two collapsed roadways.
According to the investigators, the attack, which took place early in the morning, killed three people: the driver of the truck and two people – a man and a woman – who were sitting in a car just nearby when the explosion took place and whose bodies were taken out . of the waters. The Crimean authorities announced in the afternoon that traffic had resumed for cars and buses on the only road on the bridge that remained intact, “with full inspection procedures”. The trucks will make the crossing on ferries and rail traffic has been restored in the evening.
The Investigative Committee said it had established the identity of the owner of the truck bomb, a resident of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, and that investigations were ongoing. This bridge, built at great expense on the orders of Vladimir Putin to connect the annexed peninsula with Russian territory, is mainly used to transport military equipment of the Russian army fighting in Ukraine. If Ukraine is behind the fire and explosion on the Crimean bridge, the fact that such crucial infrastructure so far from the front could be damaged by Ukrainian forces will be a turn-off for Moscow.
An act of “terrorist nature” for Russia
If Ukraine has not explicitly acknowledged its responsibility for this attack, its officials have multiplied mocking and ironic comments, the Ukrainian Post Office has even announced that it is preparing a stamp to commemorate the occasion and has the design already ready. “Crimea. The bridge. The beginning. Everything that is illegal must be destroyed, everything that has been stolen must be returned to Ukraine,” Mikhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, commented on Twitter.
These reactions led the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, to see it as a sign of the “terrorist character” of the Ukrainian authorities. The Russian army, in difficulties on the Kherson front in southern Ukraine, assured that the supply of its troops was not threatened. “The supply (…) is carried out continuously and completely along a land corridor and partly at sea,” she announced.
At the end of the day, however, the Ukrainian presidency confirmed that the explosion on the Crimean bridge suggested a “Russian trace”.
Ukraine has struck down several bridges in the Kherson region in recent months to disrupt Russian supplies, as well as military bases in Crimea, attacks it only admitted responsibility for months later. If Moscow has for the moment refrained from directly accusing Ukraine of the explosion on the Crimean bridge, the head of the regional parliament installed by Russia, Vladimir Konstantinov, condemned a coup “from the Ukrainian vandals”.
The head of the peninsula, Sergei Aksionov, tried to reassure his voters by saying that Crimea had reserves of fuel for one month and food for two months. According to him, the repair work will begin “almost today”. According to an official from the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, neighboring Crimea, Kirill Stremoussov, the repairs could take “two months”.
Russia has always maintained that the bridge is secure despite fighting in Ukraine, but has previously threatened Kiev with reprisals if Ukrainian forces attacked this or other infrastructure in Crimea. Russian MP Oleg Morozov, quoted by the Ria Novosti agency, on Saturday called for an “adequate” response. “Otherwise, this type of terrorist attack will multiply,” he said. Since the beginning of September, Russian forces have been forced to retreat at many points on the front. In particular, they were forced to withdraw from the Kharkiv region (northeast) and retreat to the Kherson region.
Faced with a galvanized Ukrainian army strong in Western arms supplies, Vladimir Putin decreed in late September the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists and the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, although Moscow only partially controls them. The only battlefield where Russian forces currently have the advantage is around the city of Bakhmout in eastern Ukraine.
In a sign of discontent among the Russian elite over the conduct of operations, Moscow announced on Saturday that it had appointed a new man to head its “special military operation” in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, 55.