An explosion rocked and partially collapsed a massive bridge that connects Russia-annexed Crimea with Russia on Saturday, a setback for Moscow’s war effort that was quickly celebrated by officials in Ukraine.
Russian authorities said a truck bomb caused an explosion that killed three people and temporarily halted vehicle and train traffic over the longest bridge in Europe — a multi-billion dollar project that opened in 2018 and is a physical sign of Russia’s claim on Crimea. It’s also a key supply artery for Russian troops.
Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility, but the attack drew gleeful celebration among some officials.
The official Telegram account for Ukrainian Parliament posted a photo and a video of the explosion early Saturday morning praising the blast. The Ukrainian postal service pledged to issue commemorative stamps commemorating the bombing.
The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council tweeted a video that appeared to taunt Russian President Vladimir Putin, who just turned 70, with footage of the attack.
Putin himself opened the railway portion of the bridge in 2019, saying “it has proven our ability to carry out large-scale infrastructure projects” in a region Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — a move most of the world considered illegal.
The Ukrainian Parliament account also posted a statement from Ruslan Stefanchuk, parliament chairman, saying, “Crimea is Ukraine. And all artificial road and bridge umbilical cords will not take root here.”
Traffic on the bridge is slowly resuming. Limited automobile traffic resumed Saturday afternoon Sergey Aksyonov, Crimea’s Russia-backed regional leader, wrote on Telegram. Rail traffic was also beginning to resume.
►This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is going to jailed Belarus rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties, the award’s judges said Friday.
►Russia’s Defense Ministry says air force chief Gen. Sergei Surovikin will be the commander of all Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. It’s the first official appointment of a single commander for the entire Russian force there.
►Ukrainian authorities are just beginning to sift through the wreckage of the devastated city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine as they assess the humanitarian toll, and possibility of war crimes, from a months-long Russian occupation.
‘Significant’ bridge attack has far-reaching implications, expert says
The attack on the 12-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov is a strategic blow to Russia’s war effort.
John Spencer, the chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum, called the explosion of the bridge “the most significant explosion of the Russia-Ukraine war” because it sends a message that Ukraine can strike anywhere within occupied area.
“Russia said just months ago it was impossible to hit the Kerch bridge,” Spencer said.
In addition to motor vehicle traffic, the bridge is a major route for supplies to come in via railroad, Spencer said.
“There’s no other bridge connecting Russia to Crimea into the South like that,” he said.
Some fear the explosion will give Putin a reason for further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. Some Russian lawmakers are calling for Putin to declare a “counterterrorism operation” in retaliation, shedding the term “special military operation” that had downplayed the scope of fighting to ordinary Russians.
The Kremlin could use such a move to further broaden the powers of security agencies, ban rallies, tighten censorship, introduce restrictions on travel and expand a partial military mobilization that Putin ordered last month.
Ukraine nuclear power plant loses external power link, UN says
Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, has lost its last remaining external power source as a result of renewed shelling and is now relying on emergency diesel generators, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Saturday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the plant’s link to a 750-kilovolt line was cut at around 1 a.m. Saturday. It cited official information from Ukraine as well as reports from IAEA experts at the site, which is held by Russian forces.
All six reactors at the plant are shut down but they still require electricity for cooling and other safety functions. Plant engineers have begun work to repair the damaged power line and the plant’s generators — not all of which are currently being used — each have sufficient fuel for at least 10 days, the IAEA said.
“The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said.
Contributing: The Associated Press