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Large explosion reported at bridge connecting Russia to Crimea as roadway section collapses into Kerch Strait

Source: Meduza

A fire that started on October 8 on the bridge connecting Crimea and Russia has been mostly extinguished. The fire started after an apparent attack blew up a freight truck, which caused seven fuel tanks on a passing train to ignite. Though the fire burned on the bridge’s train tracks, part of the roadway collapsed into the Kerch Strait as a result of the explosion.

Footage from the bridge with most of the fire extinguished

How the Kremlin is spinning it

Vladimir Putin’s administration has sent out guidelines to media and government agencies for covering the explosion. They include:

  • Emphasizing that the bridge was not destroyed, only the roadbed on both car and railway parts was damaged
  • Preparations to repair the bridge have already begun
  • The Ministry of Transport is launching new logistics routes
  • The Kerch ferry has resumed service

Judging by reporting from RIA Novosti, TASS, and the majority of Russian media outlets, the administration’s recommendations are being followed.

How Ukraine has responded

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense:

Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, published a video of the burning bridge alongside a clip of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mister President.”

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly said that the bridge could be hit. In August, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential aide, said that Ukrainian authorities consider the bridge a legitimate military targe since it is the main supply route for the Russian army on the Crimean peninsula. Dmitry Marchenko, major general of the UAF said that the bridge was “target number one for destruction for the Ukrainian military as soon as they got the technical ability to strike it.

After Saturday’s explosion, Podolyak tweeted:

How Russian authorities responded

Vladimir Putin has instructed his cabinet to create a government commission “in connection with the emergency on the Crimean bridge,” his press secretary announced, adding that officials currently cannot estimate the time needed to return the bridge to working order. Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee is treating the incident as a potential criminal act.

Russian Senator Alexander Bashkin told state journalists that Moscow will answer the apparent attack on the Crimean Bridge with a “possibly asymmetric response.” Duma deputy Oleg Morozov, meanwhile, said the “terrorist attack” on the bridge is tantamount to a “declaration of war without rules.”

What happened

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that all traffic across the Crimean Bridge was suspended on Saturday morning after a fuel tanker allegedly caught fire. Oleg Kryuchkov, an advisor to the head of Russia’s government in Crimea, said in a post on Telegram that the fire was caused by an exploded fuel tanker. He stressed that the bridge’s support arches are reportedly undamaged. Kryuchkov also stated that the Crimean Peninsula has backup supplies of food and fuel in case of disruption to traffic over the bridge.

Sources at Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee told the news outlet RBC that a freight truck exploded initially, causing seven fuel tanks aboard a passing train to ignite. Crimean Parliament Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov has blamed “Ukrainian vandals” for damaging the bridge’s roadways, though he insists that the harm will be repaired soon. (The roadways have fallen into the water.)

On social media, Russian news outlets have shared the following purported CCTV footage of the moment of the explosion(s):

Internet users at the scene of the fire shared footage apparently showing a tanker train ablaze. While the fire is burning on the bridge’s train tracks, an entire section of the bridge’s roadway has apparently collapsed.

According to Crimea Railway, a Russian state unitary enterprise, a fuel tank exploded at the tail of a freight train crossing over the bridge. The train’s locomotive and part of the cars were towed to the Kerch station after the explosion. Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport reported that the fire has not affected shipping through the Kerch Strait.

Constructed after Russia’s annexation at great expense and opened to passenger vehicles in May 2018, the Crimea Bridge is one of Moscow’s biggest infrastructure investments in the occupied peninsula. It is unknown at the time of this writing if the explosion is related at all to Ukrainian military activity.

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