By Stefan Korshak.
October 8, 2022
A Ukraine Armed Forces (AFU) Saturday morning attack devastated a logistically-critical bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland, potentially putting the southern half of Moscow’s war effort against Kyiv in jeopardy.
Photographs, video and social media comment from the scene showed a single explosion detonating underneath a four-lane road causeway crossing the Kerch Strait, some 1.5 kilometers south-east of the Crimean shoreline, at six AM.
The explosion demolished the two west-bound lanes, dropping some five meters of roadway into the Azov Sea. Superficial damage was visible to the two east-bound lanes.
On the parallel railroad causeway, a fuel train was halted and set afire. Images showed blast damage to the railroad bridge but it was not clear if its reinforced concrete foundations had been weakened.
Russian Federation official statements Saturday morning confirmed two car lanes of the bridge were completely destroyed, and that seven fuel tanker rail cars were set ablaze. By 10 A.M. local time, according to a statement from Crimea’s Emergency Situations center, the fires were extinguished.
Crimean parliament member Oleg Konstantinov in a statement claimed a truck bomb operated by a Ukrainian sabotage team caused the blast.
Konstantinov in subsequent official comment called on residents not to place videos of the damaged bridge on the internet , in the interests of state security. Social media posters ignored the appeal and some Crimean motorists drove onto the causeway following the blast to record and place online high definition video of the damage, and a total absence of RF officials on the scene.
Myhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a Telegram post Ukraine was responsible for the attack, saying “The (attacks on) the Crimean bridge have begun. Everything illegal should be destroyed, and everything stolen should be returned to Ukraine (and) everything occupied by Russia should be eliminated.” Podolyak did not offer specifics on how the (AFU) attacked the bridge.
Other law enforcement sources backed up the claim, telling Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAN that the explosion was a special operation conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
Anatoly Herashchenko, an Interior Ministry official, said the location and extent of the damage pointed to explosives placed by a sabotage team under the automobile causeway, possibly by skin divers.
Sergei Aksyonov, the RF-appointed head of Crimea, told that local media authorities had the situation under control, that construction and repair teams were moving to the scene, and that the damage was repairable. All rail and automobile traffic on the bridge would be halted until the repairs are complete, he said. Neither Aksyonov nor other Crimean officials by midday on Saturday had offered a prediction on when normal traffic would be restored.
Crimean officials said ferries would carry rail cars and automobiles back and forth across the Kerch Strait until the spans were fixed. A statement from Russia’s national railway company confirmed all rail and vehicle traffic to and from Crimea via the Kerch bridge was stopped until further notice, and that “four or five ferries” would operate as a stop-gap.
The pro-RF Readovka information platform said the damage will not affect food and fuel supplies to Crimea because authorities had amassed “several months’” of reserves in peninsula warehouses. A statement from the RF Energy Ministry said the region contains reserves of fuel “fully sufficient” for the next two weeks.
Morning social media images from Crimea showed queues stretching dozens of automobiles long at Simferopol and Sevastopol fuel stations.
Kremlin critics inside Russia were quick to assert the bridge attack, and Russian army failure to prevent it was yet more evidence of Moscow’s shambolic conduct of the war. Igor Girkin, a long-time opponent of the RF Defense Ministry, wrote ironically: “Our respected Ukrainian partners sent a splendid birthday greeting to Vladimir Vladmirovich (Putin).” The Russian leader marked his 70th birthday on Friday.
The Russian Federation opened the Kerch bridge in 2018. In the height of the summer resort season, between 30,000-40,000 automobiles and trucks cross the bridge daily.
Aside from the bridge there is no continuous road or rail link between Crimea, home to the RF Black Sea fleet, and dozens of critical RF military air bases and supply bases, and the Russian mainland. Rail lines running north from RF army warehouses in Crimea are a critical source of food, ammunition and supply to RF army and air force units fighting in Ukraine’s southern Kherson and Donetsk regions.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a move at the time condemned but not seriously opposed by much of the international community. The Ukrainian Saturday morning attack on the Kerch bridge came in the wake of weeks of RF-launched strikes of Iranian-made Shahed-136 delta-wing kamikaze drones against Ukrainian targets.