A pre-dawn attack on a key bridge linking occupied Crimea with mainland Russia temporarily closed the main artery the Russian military uses to support its forces in southern Ukraine on Monday.
Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the Kerch Strait bridge attack. They said two people were killed in the attack, and a third was wounded. Officials also said that rail service resumed on the bridge a few hours after the accident, but the extent and cause of the damage remained unclear.
Ukrainian officials have not commented on the incident. But they said the structure, a pair of road and rail bridges, was a legitimate target because of its vital logistical role in the Kremlin’s war effort.
Videos and photos verified by The Times showed damage on both sides of the land bridge, most notably on the stretch of the bridge heading to Russia. One of the pictures also showed a damaged car on the bridge.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Agency, said Ukraine would not comment on any strikes, while maintaining its policy of strategic ambiguity regarding strikes on Russian targets deep in enemy lines.
Mr. Yusov, in a statement to Ukrainian media, noted that the damage to the bridge will always cause logistical problems for the Kremlin’s war effort. He added, “Of course, any logistical problems are additional complications for the occupiers, and create potential advantages for the Ukrainian Defense Forces.”
The Russian-appointed official in southern Ukraine, Vladimir Rogov, reported two raids on the bridge—one at 3:04 am and the other at 3:20 am.
“There was a breakdown in an inch,” wrote on Telegramand damaged a second period.
The attack came just over nine months after the Oct. 8 attack on the bridge with a truck packed with explosives blocked a lane of traffic and damaged railroad tracks. Three people were killed in that attack.
The 12-mile bridge, which was completed in 2018 and is considered a feat of engineering, fully reopened to vehicular traffic in February. Normal rail traffic resumed in May.
Monday morning, the Ukrainian Security Service published She posted on social media the same poem she had posted after the October attack, stating that the bridge was “asleep” for the second time.
Vladimir Konstantinov, the speaker of parliament installed by the Kremlin in Crimea, blamed Kiev for Monday’s strikes and said the damage would be repaired soon.
Sergei Aksionov, the Moscow-backed leader of Crimea, said early Monday that all roads and railways on the bridge had been stopped.
The Russian Federation’s transport ministry said the entire structure was under inspection, but train service over the bridge – crucial to the war effort – was restored early Monday.
The bridge is a major route used to supply Russian forces in Ukraine, as well as the Black Sea Fleet, based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Russian officials said Ukraine used two naval drones in Monday’s attack, which breached extensive defenses around the bridge. Given the bridge’s military and symbolic importance, the attack was another blow to a Russian military leadership already dealing with internal conflict after a failed rebellion last month by a group of Wagner mercenaries.
If Ukraine could destroy or significantly damage the bridge, Moscow would be left with one major land route from Russia along Ukraine’s southern coast to support the tens of thousands of soldiers fighting to hold territory captured in the first weeks of the invasion. However, the Russian claim that trains resumed work on the bridge indicates that this time the damage was limited. The attack came as Ukrainian forces engaged in an ambitious and grinding counter-offensive aimed at driving Russian forces out of southern Ukraine.
Russian forces are dug in behind fields strewn with landmines, so the Ukrainian army had to move carefully and its progress was slow. At the same time, while soldiers fought trench by bloody trenches, the Ukrainian military continued to engage in systematic efforts to damage or destroy Russian logistical operations.
The traffic shutdown came at the height of the summer travel season, when Crimea was a popular destination for Russian travelers looking for a cheap beach destination. Crimean officials asked tourists to stay in their hotels due to the situation.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, said in a post on Telegram that those killed in Monday’s attack were a father and mother from the nearby Belgorod region of Russia, and their daughter was injured.
Mr. Aksionov, the official in Crimea, asked both residents and visitors to avoid using the bridge and use the “alternative overland route through the new territories,” that is, the areas of southern Ukraine occupied by Russia during its invasion. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
He and other officials urged people in Crimea not to panic, as some officials said there was enough food and fuel stored on the peninsula to supply the civilian population while the bridge was closed.
Milana Mazeva And Ivan Nikiporenko Contribute to the preparation of reports.
“Travel specialist. Typical social media scholar. Friend of animals everywhere. Freelance zombie ninja. Twitter buff.”