Kyiv – Russian authorities said that a truck bomb on Saturday caused a fire and the collapse of part of a bridge connecting Russia’s annexed Crimea with Russia, a key supply artery for Moscow’s faltering war in southern Ukraine.

The attack on the bridge came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing a humiliating blow that could force him to raise the stakes in his war against Ukraine.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said seven rail cars carrying fuel caught fire after a truck bomb exploded, leading to the “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge.” The commission did not immediately admit guilt.

The Crimean peninsula is of symbolic importance to Russia and is the key to sustaining its military operations in the south of the country. If the bridge is out of order, it will significantly complicate the delivery of ferries to the peninsula. While Russia seized areas north of Crimea early in the invasion and built a land corridor to it along the Sea of ​​Azov, Ukraine is continuing its counteroffensive to retake them.

The bridge has railway and road parts. The National Anti-Terrorist Committee of Russia clarified that the explosion and fire led to the collapse of two sections of one of the two links of the road bridge, while the second link was intact.

Authorities have suspended commuter trains across the bridge until further notice. Putin was informed of the explosion, and he ordered the creation of a government team to deal with the emergency.

The 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge across the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black and Azov Seas, is the longest in Europe. It provided an important link with the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to attack the bridge.

Russia opened the first part of the flight to automobile traffic in May 2018. The parallel bridge for railway traffic was opened the following year.

The $3.6 billion project is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea. It was Russia’s only land link to the peninsula until Russian forces seized more Ukrainian territory on the northern shore of the Sea of ​​Azov in heavy fighting, particularly around the city of Mariupol, earlier this year.

In August, Russia was hit by a series of bombings at an airbase and ammunition depots in Crimea, underscoring its vulnerability.

The truck explosion on the bridge came hours after explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early Saturday, sending huge plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of secondary explosions.

Mayor of Kharkiv Igor Tserakhov reported in Telegram that the morning explosions were the result of rocket attacks on the center of the city. According to him, as a result of the explosions, fires broke out in one of the city’s medical institutions and a non-residential building. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The blasts came hours after Russia focused its attacks in its increasingly troubled invasion of Ukraine on territories it has illegally annexed, while the death toll from earlier rocket strikes on residential buildings in the southern city of Zaporozhye rose to 14 people.

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights organizations in Russia and Ukraine, as well as to an activist imprisoned in Moscow’s ally Belarus.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee’s chairwoman, said the award went to “three outstanding fighters for human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence,” although it was seen as a rebuke to Putin and his handling of Europe’s worst armed conflict since World War II. .

On Wednesday, Putin signed documents illegally recognizing four regions of Ukraine as Russian territory, including the Zaporozhye region, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, whose reactors were shut down last month.

The harbinger of this move was Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, which took place after the supposed residents of the Moscow peninsula voted to join Russia. The move was widely condemned and prompted sanctions from the United States and the European Union.


Adam Shrek reported from Kyiv. Francisco Secco contributed to this report from Kharkiv.


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