The explosion destroyed the Crimean Bridge, the main supply route of the Russian war in Ukraine

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

Pictures on social media on Saturday showed the Kerch Bridge, which houses trains and cars, on fire. The railway bridge caught fire and part of the parallel road bridge collapsed into the sea.

The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, and dealt him a humiliating blow that might push him to escalate the situation in his war on Ukraine. One military analyst described it as a punch in the face for Putin on his birthday, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reports.

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Black smoke rises from a fire on the Kerch bridge linking Crimea with Russia, after a truck explodes, on October 8, 2022.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree late Saturday tightening security measures on the Kerch bridge and the energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia. According to the Kremlin’s statement, the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, has been assigned responsibility for these efforts.

The head of the Russian-backed regional parliament in Crimea accused Ukraine of the bombing, but Moscow did not assign blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some praised the destruction on Saturday. But Kyiv declined to claim responsibility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video speech, indirectly admitted the attack on the bridge by talking about the weather in Crimea, but did not address its causes.

“Today was a good, mostly sunny day on our state grounds,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was overcast in the Crimea.”

He said that Ukraine wanted a future “without occupiers. All over our territory, especially in Crimea.”

The head of the Kremlin-backed regional parliament in Crimea immediately accused Ukraine, although the Kremlin did not assign blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some have praised the attack, but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.

The blast triggered a sharp escalation in Russia’s eight-month war, with some Russian lawmakers calling on Putin to declare an “anti-terror operation” in response, ignoring the term “special military operation” that reduced the scope of the fighting to ordinary Russians.

The Kremlin could use such a move to expand the powers of the security services, ban gatherings, tighten controls, impose travel restrictions and expand the partial military mobilization ordered by Putin last month.

Hours after the explosion, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the commander of the Air Force, General Sergei Surovkin, would be appointed commander of all Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. This was the first official appointment of a single commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Surovkin had commanded Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a brutal bombardment that destroyed most 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 to Crimea. It provided an essential link to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The $3.6 billion bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to continuing Russian military operations in southern Ukraine. Putin himself presided over the opening of the bridge in 2018.

An attack on it “would undermine Russia’s morale, (and) give an extra boost to Ukraine,” said James Nixie of Chatham House, a think-tank in London. “It is conceivable that the Russians can rebuild it, but they cannot defend it while losing the war.”

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the truck bomb set fire to seven railroad cars carrying fuel, resulting in a “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge”. The Russian Investigative Committee said a man and a woman who were traveling in a car across the bridge were killed by the blast. It did not provide details about the third victim or what happened to the truck driver.

The blast occurred even though all vehicles crossing the bridge are subject to explosives checks by state-of-the-art control systems, prompting a series of critical comments from Russian war bloggers who urged Moscow to retaliate by striking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.

The truck that exploded belonged to a resident of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. The Russian Investigative Committee said investigators searched the man’s home and were searching the truck’s path.

The movement of trains and cars across the bridge has been temporarily suspended. Car traffic resumed Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that have remained intact since the explosion, with the flow alternating in every direction and vehicles undergoing “full inspections,” the Russian-backed regional leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksionov, wrote on Telegram.

Rail traffic was slowly resuming. Two passenger trains from the cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol left the Crimea and headed towards the bridge on Saturday evening. Passenger ferry flights between Crimea and the Russian mainland were relaunched on Sunday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said forces in the south are receiving necessary supplies through the land corridor along the Sea of ​​Azov and by sea. The Russian Energy Ministry said Crimea had enough fuel for 15 days.

Putin was informed of the explosion and ordered the formation of a government commission to deal with the emergency.

Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, said the “terrorist attack” should serve as an alarm bell. He declared that “the special operation should be transformed into an anti-terror operation.”

“The consequences will be imminent” if Ukraine is responsible, said Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament. Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia faction, said Russia should respond by attacking key Ukrainian infrastructure, including power stations, bridges and railways.

Such statements may presage a decision by Putin to announce an anti-terror operation.

Parliamentary leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party stopped claiming Kyiv was responsible, but cast the bridge explosion as a consequence of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.

“The illegal Russian construction started to collapse and caught fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, sooner or later it will explode,” said David Arakhamia of the Servant of the People Party.

The Ukrainian Postal Service announced that it would issue postage stamps commemorating the explosion, as it did after the Russian cruiser Moskva sank in a Ukrainian strike.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov tweeted a video clip of the Kerch Bridge on fire, and Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.

“The reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure shows its terrorist nature,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in Moscow.

Local authorities in Crimea have given conflicting statements about what the damaged bridge might mean for residents. The peninsula is a popular destination for Russian tourists and home to a Russian naval base. A Russian tourist association estimated that 50,000 tourists were in Crimea on vacation on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Moscow continues to incur losses on the battlefield.

On Saturday, a Kremlin-backed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region announced a partial evacuation of civilians from the southern region, one of four illegally annexed by Moscow last week. Kirill Strimosov told Russia’s state-run agency RIA Novosti that young children and the elderly could be moved because Kherson was “preparing for a difficult period”.

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