Fireball engulfs key Crimean bridge for supplying Russian troops
A massive fireball damaged a well-known Russian bridge Saturday that links the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland, according to multiple reports.
Why it matters: The explosion will likely cause an immediate blow to Russia's supply route to troops fighting in southern Ukraine.
- The Kerch bridge has been a longtime symbol of Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim to the Crimean Peninsula.
- As a response to the explosion, Putin signed an order heightening security on the bridge late Saturday, the AP reports. Russia's federal security service, known as the FSB, will be in charge of security measures at the bridge.
- Putin has also ordered an investigation into the Kerch Bridge "emergency" in Crimea, Russia's state-run TASS news agency reported Saturday.
Details: The Kerch Strait Bridge, which runs for 12 miles, was rocked by an explosion of a truck early Saturday morning, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement, per NBC News.
- The explosion “resulted in the ignition of seven fuel tanks of a train heading towards the Crimean Peninsula,” the statement said.
- Multiple lanes of the bridge reportedly crashed into the Black Sea. Images show the entire bridge encapsulated by a large fireball.
- The full extent of the damage, including deaths and injuries, remains unclear.
- Russia's transportation department said the railroad section would likely be back in working order by Saturday night, per the New York Times.
What they're saying: Neither Russia nor Ukraine took immediate responsibility for the explosion, though both sides hinted that it wasn't an accident.
- "Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled," said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a Twitter post.
- The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Putin has "directed the prime minister to form a government commission to find out the causes of the incident and eliminate the consequences as soon as possible," according to the New York Times.
Context: Dozens of Russian military convoys have used the bridge in recent months to help provide armor and fuel to soldiers in southern Ukraine, CNN reports. Any disruption to the bridge could impact how smoothly the military operates in that region.
- Ukraine has recently made advancements in the Kherson region, which is in the south.
Zoom out: The bridge was created as a symbol of Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, per CNN. The Russian president has often used the bridge as a political tool to demonstrate his claim to the region
- Putin opened the Kerch bridge in 2018 and drove a truck across it, NYT reports.
- Zelensky pledges fair treatment for Ukrainians in reclaimed territory
- Biden: Putin could escalate "prospect of Armageddon" with nuclear weapons
Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details.