“There is no doubt that the attack was aimed at destroying the vital civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” Putin said in a video released by the Kremlin. The 12-mile extension, while used by civilians, is also an important military logistics route for the Russian armed forces, and is the only direct and rail route from mainland Russia to Crimea.
The incident sent shockwaves across the region, breaching the Kremlin’s assertions about the bridge’s immunity and compounding Russia’s challenges in repelling a Ukrainian counter-attack that recaptured occupied areas in the south and east of the country.
While Russian officials said that limited road and rail traffic would continue, significant damage to the bridge posed an immediate logistical challenge to Moscow’s military offensive. Putin personally opened the bridge in 2018, in a move aimed at consolidating Russia’s grip on the peninsula, which it illegally annexed in 2014.
While the Ukrainian government did not publicly claim responsibility for the incident, officials in Kyiv sought to use the explosion as evidence of its ability to achieve a battlefield victory against the larger and better-armed Russian army, a prospect that many Western officials only dismissed. months ago.
A Ukrainian official told the Washington Post on Saturday that Ukrainian special services were behind the explosion, which Russian authorities said occurred when a truck exploded, igniting fuel tanks on a passing train.
Speaking in the video with Putin, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, said that the truck in the accident, which he said belonged to Russians and other citizens, came from Bulgaria through Georgia and into Russia before being transferred to Crimea.
Ukrainian officials denied the Russian statements, and instead condemned Russia for the nightly missile strikes that authorities said killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 70, including 11 children, in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia. After the attack, officials released photos of a partially destroyed apartment building, in which the central part collapsed into a pile of rubble.
Putin accuses Ukraine of terrorism? It looks very sarcastic even for Russia,” Mikhailo Podolak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, He said on Twitter. “There is only one terrorist state here and the whole world knows who it is.”
Russia has repeatedly bombed civilian targets since its February 24 invasion, including hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and railway stations.
On Sunday, Oleksandr Staruch, governor of the Zaporizhzhya region, said that at least eight people had been pulled out of the rubble in Zaporizhia after the attack.
Staruch said that while rescuers worked to clear the rubble the following night, another air strike destroyed the area. Around 2 a.m. on Monday local time, Staruch warn people In Zaporizhzhia to hide due to an upcoming air raid, according to his Telegram account. after about an hour, He said An apartment building was destroyed.
The devastation has highlighted the potential for Russian retaliation for the bridge incident, and the continued vulnerability of Ukrainian cities despite massive arms shipments by the United States and European countries in recent months.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Zaporizhia attack provided further evidence that Ukraine’s backers should Speed up this offer. “We urgently need more modern air and missile defense systems to save innocent lives,” he said on Twitter.
Officials in Kyiv hope that the bridge incident, whatever its causes, will provide additional fuel for their campaign to attract expanded support from the West, including long-range missiles and tanks, and thus convince Russian forces and Russian public opinion that war is war. Failed case.
Simon Schlegel, a Ukraine expert with the International Crisis Group, said the highways through Russian-controlled territory to the strategic city of Kherson, which the Russians are expected to enthusiastically defend, were not an ideal alternative to the Crimean bridge because it is closer to Ukrainian. military sites.
Andrei Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister who now serves as an adviser to Zelensky’s government, said the psychological impact of the bridge accident may be even greater than the logistical challenges created by Russia.
“It destroys the confidence of the Russian military, the Russian government and even the Russian people in general in their inability to manage risks and inability to protect,” he said. “This is very important.”
Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, described the Zaporizhzhya attack as “barbaric”. He said on Twitter…we have to keep digging deeper. More military assistance, more aid, and more sanctions.
Russian authorities sought to bring life back to normal by cable after the bridge erupted, despite what appeared to be extensive damage to the building.
In a message on his Telegram channel, Sergei Aksyonov, head of the Crimea region, show a picture For an undisturbed part of the bridge, he said, officials are working to organize transportation between the Crimea and the Russian Krasnodar region. He said normal rail services had resumed but only cars were passing over the bridge at the moment while buses and heavy vehicles were traveling by ferries.
The Russian Transport Ministry said on Sunday that passenger and freight trains were running regularly across the bridge by Sunday morning. Interfax said train service would resume that evening.
It was not clear whether truck-mounted explosives or anything else caused the accident.
Baza, a Russian news outlet that frequently reports on leaked information, said on its Telegram channel that the driver of the truck that Russian authorities said exploded on the bridge has been contracted to deliver a cargo to Simferopol, a city in Crimea. The driver was supposed to be paid 48,000 rubles, or about $770, Baza reported.
It added that he was contracted on the sixth of October and carried the shipment in the Russian city of Armavir on the seventh of October and stopped sleeping just before the bridge and left early the next morning.
“He told his family about it, and after the call he turned off his phone,” Bazza said. A video clip published by a Russian state newspaper showed the explosion at 6:03 am, when vehicles were traveling on the bridge.
Saint Petersburg officials said the other two people authorities said were killed in the blast were Edward Chuchakin and Zoya Sofronova, a married couple who work as historians and documentaries. Authorities said their car was traveling near the truck that exploded.
The attack may also intensify the internal pressure Putin faces due to setbacks on the battlefield. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian leader would hold a Security Council meeting on Monday.
Already, prominent Russians are urging revenge, including deputies and media figures such as Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state-owned RT channel. After the explosion, she said Requested In a tweet: “And?”
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev demanded a strong response.
Russia’s response to this crime can only be the direct destruction of terrorists. In an interview with journalist Nadana Friedrichsson, published on her Telegram channel, he said that the way it is done is generally in the world. “This is what the citizens of Russia are waiting for.”
Isabel Khorodian of Kryvyi Rih, Kostyantin Khudov in Kyiv, and John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.
The war in Ukraine: what you need to know
Last: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to The annexation of four occupied regions of Ukraine, after interim referendums were widely denounced as illegal. Follow us Live updates here.
the answer: The Biden administration announced on Friday a New round of sanctions against RussiaIn response to the annexations, it targeted Russian and Belarusian government officials, family members, military officials, and defense procurement networks. As President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday, so is Ukraine Apply for a “quick ascent” to NATOIn clear response to the annexations.
In Russia: Putin announced military mobilization On September 21 to call up to 300,000 reserve soldiers In a dramatic attempt to reverse the setbacks in his war on Ukraine. advertising led to exodus From More than 180,000 peopleespecially The men who were subject to serviceAnd the Renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.
Fighting: Ukraine launched successful counterattack who – which Russia forced a major withdrawal in the northeastern Kharkiv region In early September, when the troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and Abandoned large amounts of military equipment.
Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.