Explosion Destroys Part of Crimea Bridge, Disrupts Russian Forces’ Supply Route

Explosion Destroys Part of Crimea Bridge, Disrupts Russian Forces’ Supply Route
A view shows a fire on the Crimean Bridge, also called the Kerch bridge, at sunrise in the Kerch Strait, Crimea, on Oct. 8, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

A massive explosion on Oct. 8 involving a truck on a bridge that links Russia and Crimea killed at least three people and caused a fire that destroyed a section of the bridge, Russian authorities said.

The span is regarded as a key supply route for Russian troops in southern Ukraine.

The Crimean Bridge—also called Kerch Strait Bridge or Kerch Bridge—is a 19-kilometer (12-mile) structure that traverses the Kerch Strait and links southern Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. The Kerch Strait links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said that the explosion triggered a fire on the parallel rail section, where seven railway cars carrying fuel caught fire. The blast also caused a “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge.”

At least three people, “presumably the passengers of a car that was driving by the truck that exploded on the bridge,” were killed, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.

‘The bodies of a woman and a man were recovered from the water, their identities are being established,” the statement reads, according to Russian state-owned TASS news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed about the explosion; he ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.

“A ferry service is ready to be launched, it will start operating later today,” Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov said on Oct. 8 on Telegram, per TASS. “We will announce a timetable later.”

The Crimean Peninsula is key to sustaining Russia’s military operations in the south. If the bridge is made inoperable, it would make it significantly more challenging to ferry supplies to the peninsula. While Russia seized the areas north of Crimea early during the invasion and built a land corridor to it along the Sea of Azov, Ukraine is pressing a counteroffensive to reclaim them.

The explosion took place hours after multiple blasts early on Oct. 8 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which triggered a series of secondary explosions. The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said that the series of explosions were due to missile strikes aimed at the center of the city, which caused fires at one of Kharkiv’s medical institutions, as well as a nonresidential building. There were no reports of casualties.

Bridge Explosion ‘The Beginning’: Ukraine Official

Meanwhile, Mikhail Podoliak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, posted on Twitter that the explosion is “the beginning.”
“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled,” he wrote in English.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have also previously stated that Ukraine would use force to retake Crimea. Podoliak in August threatened the bridge, telling The Guardian that it’s “an illegal construction and the main gateway to supply the Russian army in Crimea” and that “such objects should be destroyed.”
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after a vast majority in Crimea voted in a referendum in March of that year to reunite with Russia and secede from Ukraine. The vote took place after anti-Russia, pro-European Union factions overthrew then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government, in an armed coup in February 2014.
The referendum was condemned by the United States and the European Union, with the latter saying in a statement (pdf) that the poll was “illegal and illegitimate.” Both the United States and the E.U. issued sanctions in response to the vote.

The Crimean Bridge, a $3.69 billion project, was built following the annexation of Crimea. Russia opened the first part of the span to car traffic in May 2018. The parallel bridge for rail traffic opened the following year. Before the bridge’s existence, the Crimean Peninsula could only be reached from Russia by sea or air.

It was Russia’s only land link to the peninsula until Russian forces seized more Ukrainian territory on the northern end of the Sea of Azov in heavy fighting, particularly around the city of Mariupol, in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.