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Blast damages Crimea bridge, key supply route in Russia’s war in Ukraine

8 October 2022

An explosion caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia on Saturday, damaging a key supply artery for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine. Russian authorities said a truck bomb caused the blast and that three people were killed.

Images on social media Saturday showed the Kerch Bridge, which has train and automobile sections, in flames. The railway bridge was ablaze and a section of the parallel road bridge collapsed into the sea.

The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing him a humiliating blow that could lead him to up the ante in his war on Ukraine. One military analyst called it a punch in the face for Putin on his birthday, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reports.

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Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch Bridge that links Crimea to Russia, after a truck exploded, on Oct. 8, 2022. 

AFP via Getty Images

The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament immediately accused Ukraine, though the Kremlin didn’t apportion blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the attack, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility. 

The explosion risked a sharp escalation in Russia’s eight-month war, with some Russian lawmakers 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.

Such a move could be used by the Kremlin 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. 

Hours after the explosion, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that the air force chief, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would be named commander of all Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. It was the first official appointment of a single commander for all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Surovikin had led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a brutal bombardment that destroyed much of the city of Aleppo.

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CBS News

The Kerch Bridge opened in 2018 and is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea. It has provided an essential link to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the truck bomb caused seven railway cars carrying fuel to catch fire, resulting in a “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge.” A man and a woman riding in a vehicle across the bridge were killed by the explosion, Russia’s Investigative Committee said. It didn’t provide details on the third victim or what happened to the truck driver.

The blast occurred even though all vehicles crossing the bridge undergo checks for explosives by state-of-the-art control systems, drawing a stream of critical comments from Russian war bloggers who urged Moscow to retaliate by striking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.

The truck that exploded was owned by a resident of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. Russia’s Investigative Committee said investigators searched the man’s home and were looking at the truck’s route.

Train and automobile traffic over the bridge was temporarily suspended. Automobile traffic resumed Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that remained intact from the blast, with the flow alternating in each direction and vehicles undergoing a “full inspection procedure,” Crimea’s Russia-backed regional leader, Sergey Aksyonov, wrote on Telegram.

Rail traffic is expected to resume Saturday night, the Russian Transport Ministry said, while passenger ferry links between Crimea and the Russian mainland were being relaunched Sunday. 

The Russian Defense Ministry said troops in the south were receiving necessary supplies through the land corridor along the Sea of Azov and by sea. Russia’s Energy Ministry said Crimea has enough fuel for 15 days.

Putin was informed about the explosion and he ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.

The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament blamed Ukraine for the explosion, but downplayed the severity of the damage and said the bridge would be promptly repaired.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, said “consequences will be imminent” if Ukraine is responsible.

Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Russian Communist Party, said the “terror attack” should serve as a wake-up call.

“The long-overdue measures haven’t been taken yet, the special operation must be turned into a counterterrorist operation,” he said.

Sergei Mironov, the head of the Just Russia faction in parliament, said that Russia should respond to the explosion on the bridge by attacking key Ukrainian infrastructure including power plants, bridges and railways.

The statements, especially from Zyuganov and Slutsky, may herald a decision by Putin to declare a counterterrorism operation. 

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Author: CBS Minnesota

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