Jul 17, 2023 - World

Attack on Crimean bridge targets Russian supplies and symbolism

The damaged Kerch Bridge on July 17. Photo: Crimea24TV/AFP via Getty Images

An attack Monday damaged a busy bridge linking Russia to Crimea, suspending traffic and killing two people — the second time in a year the bridge has been targeted.

Why it matters: The Kerch bridge holds vital strategic and symbolic value for Russia, providing a key supply route for Russian troops in their ongoing assault on Ukraine.

The big picture: The bridge has for years epitomized the tension between Russia and Ukraine over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

  • The 12-mile bridge, inaugurated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, is the only direct link between Crimea and the Russian mainland, per The Guardian.
  • Over the course of the war, the Kerch Bridge has been used to transport fuel, armor and vehicles to Russian troops, CNN reported.

State of play: Russian government officials have referred to the incident as a "terror attack" and blamed Ukraine.

  • Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee said Monday that the attack was carried out by Ukrainian forces using two surface drones, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
  • A couple from Russia's Belgorod region was killed and their teenage daughter was injured, Belgorod regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote in a Telegram post.
  • Part of the bridge's roadway was damaged, suspending traffic, though rail service has resumed and a ferry is continuing to carry people from the peninsula to the Russian mainland, per TASS.

Worth noting: Ukrainian authorities have not formally claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • "Any illegal structures used to deliver Russian instruments of mass murder are necessarily short-lived ... regardless of the reasons for the destruction," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted Monday in an apparent reference to the attack.
  • Hours after the attack took place, Russia announced that it was pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal.

Flashback: The Kerch bridge was heavily damaged by an explosion last October, after which Russia scrambled to reestablish supply lines to Crimea.

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