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Explosions reported at Crimean Bridge, Russia blames Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 17, 2023 2:28 PM 3 min read
This video grab taken from a rimea24TV footage on July 17, 2023 shows the damaged Kerch bridge -- linking Crimea to Russia -- which was heavily damaged following an attack, on July 17, 2023. (Photo credit: Crimea24TV/AFP via Getty Images)
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Russia has claimed Ukraine is responsible for the explosions reported early on July 17 at the Crimean Bridge, which connects Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula with Russia’s Krasnodar Oblast.

Two blasts were reported by Russian media at around 3 a.m. local time.

According to Russian-installed officials in Crimea, traffic was stopped due to an “emergency” incident at the bridge’s 145th pillar. They cautioned those living in Crimea to refrain from using the bridge.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, Vyacheslav Gladkov, claimed that the explosions killed a man and a woman, and injured a child.

The Russian Transport Ministry said that the bridge’s roadway sustained damage, although it did not specify the extent. However, Russian-installed officials in occupied Crimea claimed the bridge’s railroad track was not damaged in the explosions.

The Russian news agency TASS later reported, however, that eight trains going to and from Crimea are delayed due to the explosions.

“Law enforcement agencies and relevant services are at work,” Sergey Aksenov, the Russian-appointed head of occupied Crimea said, adding that “measures are being taken to ameliorate the situation.

Moscow has blamed Ukraine’s special services for the attack, alleging that two Ukrainian seaborne drones hit the Crimean Bridge, and said it has opened an “official investigation.” The Kremlin did not provide evidence to corroborate its claim.

“Today’s attack on the Crimean Bridge was carried out by the Kyiv Regime,” Russian foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed.

While Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the alleged attack, it has not denied it, either.

“Nightingale, my dear brother, the bridge has gone to sleep again. And once… Twice!” Ukraine’s Security Service said via Telegram, linking to a post from October 2022 referring to a previous attack on the Crimean Bridge.

According to the spokesperson for Ukraine’s defense intelligence, Andrii Yusov, the damage sustained to the Crimean Bridge could create logistical difficulties for Russian forces, noting that Russia uses the bridge as a “major logistics hub for moving forces and resources deep into the territory of Ukraine.”

“The whole world is now witnessing kilometer-long traffic jams and damaged bridge structures,” he said.

However, Yusov said Kyiv will not comment on the cause of the damage, noting he could “only quote the chief of Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, who said ‘the Crimean Bridge is an unstable structure.’”

Russia opposes grain deal extension
Russia opposes the prolongation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported on July 17, citing the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that an anonymous source from Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said on July 17 that the attack on the Crimean Bridge was a joint operation of the SBU and Ukraine’s naval forces.

LIGA.net also reported, citing its sources in the SBU, that the SBU and Ukraine’s naval forces are responsible for the attack. The Ukrainian outlet also noted that the strike was likely conducted with surface drones.

The SBU did not comment on the allegations, saying that information surrounding the incident will only be revealed once the war is over.

Southern Operational Command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk suggested that the attack may have been a deliberate provocation by Russia amid the talks on the prolongation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The grain deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022, has been essential in mitigating a global surge in food prices by allowing Ukraine to export its agricultural products via the Black Sea.

The agreement has been prolonged several times with the last extension set to expire today on July 17.

The Kremlin announced on July 17 that it had suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but claimed that the decision was not related to the bridge attack.

The Kyiv Independent could not independently verify this information.

This has not been the first such incident as the Crimean Bridge was seriously damaged already on Oct. 8, 2022. Russian officials claimed that a truck packed with explosives detonated on the bridge near a tanker train, triggering a chain reaction.

While the Kremlin accused Ukraine of attack, Kyiv retorted that the incident was a result of the internal struggle within Russia.

The damaged Crimean Bridge, July 17, 2023. (Source: Smotri/Telegram)
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