SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 17 June 2024, Monday |

Crimea Bridge, key Russian supply line, damaged, two dead, reports of blasts

The Crimea Bridge, a vital supply line for Russian troops in Ukraine, was damaged in a “emergency” situation that killed two people and injured a child, according to Russian officials, while Ukrainian media reported explosives on the bridge.

According to Russian officials, traffic on the Russian-built bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014. According to Reuters video, there was no traffic on the bridge.

The 19 km (12-mile) road and rail bridge has been a pride infrastructure project of President Vladimir Putin, who drove a Mercedes across the bridge in 2022 after it was repaired following an explosion.

Sergei Aksyonov, a Russia-installed governor, said the emergency occurred on the 145th pillar of the bridge which links the Crimean peninsula to the Russian region of Krasnodar. He did not provide any further details.

Russia’s transport ministry said that there was damage to the road on the bridge closer to the Crimean Peninsula, but there was no damage to the pillars. It did not say what caused the damage.

The RBC-Ukraine news agency reported that explosions were heard on the bridge.

Russia’s Grey Zone channel, a heavily followed Telegram channel affiliated with the Wagner mercenary group, reported that there were two strikes on the bridge at 03:04 a.m. (0004 GMT) and 03:20 a.m.

The parents of a girl were killed and their daughter was injured in a passenger car on the bridge early on Monday, said Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region in southern Russia. He did not say how the people were killed.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Odesa military administration, posted a photo on his Telegram account of what seemed to show part of the bridge broken. It was not immediately clear whether that was related to any attack.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

George Barros, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said on Twitter that if the bridge was seriously damaged it would significantly impact Russian supply lines.

“Russia will only have one ground supply line – the coastal highway on the Sea of Azov – to sustain (or evacuate) its tens of thousands of troops in occupied Kherson & Crimea if UKR manages to degrade/destroy the bridge,” said Barros.

It was not immediately clear what the incident on the bridge would mean for the U.N.-brokered deal that allows the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters.

The U.N. deal is due to expire on Monday, with the last ship to travel under the deal leaving the port of Odesa early on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness and MarineTraffic.com

PUTIN’S SHOWCASE

The Crimean Bridge was damaged by an explosion last October, in an attack that the Kremlin said had been orchestrated by Ukrainian security forces. Ukraine admitted only indirectly to the attack months later.

Putin’s ally Arkady Rotenberg’s company built the vast structure, which is Europe’s longest bridge. Putin has long lauded the project, boasting at one point that Russian Tsars and Soviet leaders had dreamed of building it but never did.

The Crimean peninsula has been a major and cherished holiday destination for Russians, especially after Moscow launched its invasion on Ukraine in 2022 and travelling to the West became more difficult for many Russians.

In recent weeks, traffic jams to the entrance of the bridge went for kilometres on daily basis as Russians went on holidays.

On Monday morning the traffic jam ran for kilometres before police directed vehicles away from the bridge. Social media accounts showed cars lined up on the bridge and its entrance.

The Russian-backed administration of the Crimean peninsula urged residents not to travel via the bridge.

    Source:
  • Reuters