Russian divers are to survey the extent of the damage caused by a powerful explosion on Russia’s road-rail bridge to Crimea, a hated symbol of Russian occupation and a key logistics link for Russian forces in the south. Ukraine.
Russian news agencies, citing Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin, said divers would begin work on Sunday at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), and a more detailed survey of the waterline should be completed by the end of the day.
“The situation is under control – it’s unpleasant, but not deadly,” the Kremlin appointed the governor Crimea, – said Siarhei Aksyonov. “Of course there are emotions and there is a healthy desire for revenge.”
Earlier, Russia threatened retaliation for any attack on the bridge. Celebration in Ukraine over the damage – which is likely to complicate the delivery of supplies and reinforcements to occupation forces in the south – was mixed with concern about a possible escalation.
Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility for the attack, which Russia says was carried out using a truck bomb. But one senior Ukrainian official posted a “happy birthday” message with images of the destruction, and the country’s post office hours later revealed a sketch of a commemorative stamp showing a burning bridge, raising questions about whether the explosion was intended.
The peninsula had fuel reserves for a month and more than two months, Aksyonov said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces in southern Ukraine could be “fully secured” through existing land and sea routes.
At least 17 people were killed in an overnight rocket attack in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporozhye on Saturday evening, a local official said on Sunday. Residential buildings and roads in the residential area were damaged, Anatoly Kurtsev reported in Telegram.
This was reported by the senior adviser to the president, Anton Gerashchenko Vladimir Zelenskysaid 40 were injured, but this is only a preliminary figure.
In Crimea, limited road traffic resumed about 10 hours after Saturday’s blast, and Russia’s Transport Ministry allowed rail traffic to resume.
The bridge is a major artery for Russian troops who control most of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and for the Russian naval port of Sevastopol, whose governor told locals: “Keep calm, don’t panic.”
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and the 19-kilometer (12-mile) Crimean Bridge, which connects the region to Russia’s transportation network, was opened with great fanfare by the president four years later Vladimir Putin. Kyiv is demanding that Russian troops leave the Black Sea peninsula, as well as territory in Ukraine they seized during the invasion that Putin launched in February.
It is unclear whether the Kerch Bridge bombing was a deliberate attack, but the damage to such a significant structure comes amid several Russian defeats on the battlefield and could further cast a shadow over the Kremlin’s assurances that conflict is being planned.
On Saturday, Putin signed a decree to increase the security of the bridge, as well as the infrastructure that supplies electricity and gas to Crimea, and ordered an investigation.
“The Russians can probably rebuild it, but they can’t defend it by losing the war,” said James Nixey, a political analyst at the British think tank Chatham House.
Russian officials said three people were killed, believed to be passengers in a car that was driving next to the truck that exploded. Seven tank cars of a 59-car train bound for the peninsula also caught fire on the upper level of the bridge.
A few hours after the explosion, Russia announced he appointed a notorious veteran with a bloody record as its first commander-in-chief for the war in Ukraine. Sergei Suravikin opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in the 1990s and led a Russian military expedition to Syria in 2017, where he was accused of using controversial tactics, including indiscriminate bombing of anti-government fighters. His appointment could mean Moscow now realizes its army is at risk of collapse in Ukraine as Kiev’s forces advance in all four southern regions Putin claims to have annexed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not talk about the bridge explosion in his Saturday video message, saying only that the weather in Crimea was cloudy, but also warm.
“But no matter how cloudy it is, Ukrainians know… our future is sunny,” he said. “This is a future without occupiers, throughout our territory, especially in Crimea.”
However, Zelensky also said that Ukrainian troops were fighting very hard near Bakhmut, a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine that Russia is trying to capture.
“We are holding our positions in the Donbass, in particular in the Bakhmut direction, where it is very, very difficult – very fierce fighting,” he said.
Since the beginning of the war in February, Ukrainian officials have regularly expressed their opinion that they want to destroy the Kerch bridge. The Post Office of Ukraine announced that it will print a special stamp.
“Undoubtedly, we are witnessing the beginning of large-scale piracy processes in Russia,” Zelensky’s advisor Mikhail Padalyak said in a comment, blaming the infighting on Putin’s entourage, attributing the explosion to Russian operatives.
The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that Kiev’s reaction to the destruction of civilian infrastructure “testifies to its terrorist nature.”
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee of Russia reported that at 06:07 (03:07 GMT) a truck exploded on the roadway of the bridge. It says that two spans of the road bridge have partially collapsed, but the arch that spans the channel through which ships move between the Black and Azov seas is undamaged.
Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Kurankov told the Russian state news agency TASS that clever railway workers who unhooked the burning cars prevented the fire from spreading.
The pictures show that half of the roadway has been demolished and the other half is still attached.
Moscow portrays the predominantly Russian-speaking Crimea as a historical part of Russia and, especially this year, as a part where its citizens can rest.
The explosion “will not greatly affect the supply of the army,” said Kiril Stremausau, deputy head of the Kherson region.
“But there will be problems with the logistics of Crimea,” he added on social networks.