The Kerch Bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula to Russia has been closed by an “emergency”. Traffic was stopped on the Russian-built Crimean Bridge due to “an emergency” situation, Russia-installed officials said on Monday, while Ukrainian media reported blasts on the bridge.To see important ads, turn off your ad blocker! Article continued below:
Sergei Aksyonov, a Russian-installed governor, said the emergency occurred on the 145th pillar of the bridge which links the Crimean peninsula to the Russian region of Krasnodar.
The heavily guarded road and rail link is among the Kremlin’s most important and high-prestige infrastructure projects, and the only overland link that goes directly from Russia to occupied Crimea.
Crimea bridge, cars heading for the bridge were stopped early Monday morning.
Russia’s transport ministry said the road had been damaged but not the pillars. Pictures on social media appeared to show a section of the bridge had sheared off and was now sloping towards the Black Sea.
If it is an attack rather than an accident, this will be the second time the bridge has been sabotaged, and the latest significant blow to Russian military prestige. It comes after a coup attempt by the Wagner mercenary group last month and amid reports that senior field commanders are being removed from their posts in Ukraine.
A ferry service linking Crimea with Kuban, in the Russian region of Krasnodar, has also been halted, the Russian Tass news agency reported.
Crimea bridge, appalls.
The bridge, a much-hated symbol of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, was built on Putin’s orders and inaugurated by him in 2018. It is a key link for bringing troops, equipment and supplies to Russia’s invasion force in Ukraine.
Moscow has in the past boasted of layers of protection, ranging from the latest weapons systems to military dolphins. But in October 2022, the day after Putin’s 70th birthday, a massive explosion destroyed a section of the Ukraine-bound road and engulfed the rail link in flames.
Kyiv did not initially claim that attack, but earlier this month, deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar marked 500 days since Russia’s invasion by acknowledging in a Telegram post that Ukraine was behind the truck bombing “to break Russian logistics”.
After it was repaired, Putin drove a Mercedes across the bridge to Crimea, underlining how important he considers the project.
The 19km (12mile) bridge is the only direct land link between Russia and Crimea; ferries are slower and when winter weather hits the Black Sea, can be unreliable.
The road and railway bridges run parallel, with a wide suspension span in the middle to allow ships to pass through. It has been a supply route for food, fuel and other supplies for Russian troops invading southern Ukraine, and for the naval base at Sevastopol port, the base of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet.
When the bridge is closed Russia can still send supplies to Crimea through occupied Ukraine, along the coastal highway through ruined Mariupol, beside the Azov sea, but this is a longer route and presents a less challenging target for Ukrainian forces than the heavily guarded bridge.
“The Kerch Strait Bridge is a logistically significant object,” George Barrows, analyst with US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War, wrote on Twitter after the first reports of explosions on the bridge.
“Russia will only have one ground supply line – the coastal highway on the Sea of Azov – to sustain (or evacuate) it’s tens of thousands of troops in occupied Kherson & Crimea if UKR manages to degrade/destroy the bridge.”
The bridge has also been the main route used by Russian civilians heading to Crimea for holidays, apparently undeterred by a string of Ukrainian attacks on Russian military targets there, including an airbase and naval vessels.
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