It was about 3 am on Monday, July 17, when two explosions occurred in the middle of the Kerch Strait. The location of the strikes, which were carried out by the drones of the Ukrainian Navy, was not chosen randomly. The Crimean Bridge, central to the Russian logistical system, was hit roughly at the level of the historic maritime border between Ukraine and Russia, which only appears as a dotted line on most world maps since the peninsula was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The Telegram Baza channel, which has ties to the Russian security services, published pictures showing a lane on the road from the bridge being uprooted and a black car with its front smashed. Local authorities said the couple who were there died in the blast. Mash, another online outlet closely linked to the Russian police, posted videos showing one part of the bridge collapsing and another part starting to sink into the waters of the strait. The newspaper says that investigators found traces of jet skis near the site of the explosion and claims that Ukraine began using them as drones carrying explosives underwater. This attack, which anonymous sources in Ukrainian intelligence claimed was not usually, was preceded the day before by a wave of air and sea drones targeting Russian positions in Crimea, particularly in Sevastopol.
Strategic and symbolic
The 19-kilometer bridge spanning the Kerch Strait is the infrastructural symbol of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Built for over $3 billion and opened by Vladimir Putin in 2018 to great fanfare, today it is the main land link between Russia and the peninsula. Already damaged on October 8 by a truck bomb—the attack was never officially attributed—the bridge was the subject of months of costly repairs before returning to service at the end of February. The Russian president had himself crossed it at the wheel of a Mercedes in December to begin rebuilding it. An echo of the opening ceremony where, four years ago, he drove a Kamaz truck over the brand-new bridge to symbolize Crimea’s connection to the Russian nation.
The Kerch Bridge, which also contains a railway section that was left intact in the attack of 17 July, is an important supply artery for the Russian invasion and occupation forces. It is indeed the only land route to the front that does not cross the annexed oblasts of eastern Ukraine, which is much more dangerous. “The Russians use Crimea as a major logistical hub for moving forces and assets into Ukrainian territory.”Andrey Yusov, spokesman for the Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate, noted on the Ukrainian channel Suspilsne. Of course, any logistical problem is an additional complication for passengers. »
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In his characteristic style, the head of the Ukrainian intelligence service, Kirillo Budanov, limited himself to declaring that the Crimean Bridge was “useless infrastructure”. Mykhailo Podolak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, reiterated Kyiv’s position on Twitter that the bridge was a legitimate military target:
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“All illegal structures used to direct the Russian slaughtering machines are necessarily ephemeral… regardless of the reasons for their destruction.”
Any illegal structures used to deliver Russian tools of mass murder are necessarily short-lived… regardless of the reasons for the destruction.
– Михайло Подоляк (Podolyak_M) July 17, 2023
Twitter – Михайло Подоляк on Twitter
“Losing the bridge doesn’t mean traffic between Russia and Crimea has stopped waiting for it to be repaired as ferries and ferries take its place — at the cost of slowing flows, though.”And However, the specialized magazine “Desi” notes.. Although, for some observers, the attack may be a sign of an imminent intensification of the Ukrainian counter-offensive launched last month.
50,000 tourists were stranded
Whatever the motives of the Ukrainian General Staff, this attack has collateral consequences in terms of scale: in this month of July, during which time Crimea is a historically popular destination for Soviet and then Russian elites, 50,000 tourists cross over the bridge suddenly. themselves stranded on the peninsula. The Russian authorities, anticipating renewed tensions in the region, recommended that their subjects return home as soon as possible through the occupied territories – “new territories” In the new Kremlin terminology –Commercial flights have been suspended since the beginning of the war.
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The proposed 400-kilometer route passes through Melitopol, Mariupol and Rostov in particular, crossing many areas affected by the fighting with the Ukrainian army, which is bombing Russian supply lines. To facilitate the return of distressed holidaymakers, Russian authorities have already warned that procedures at checkpoints will be simplified and that safety on roads will be enhanced, even if it is advisable to pass. “Away from army vehicles and helicopters” of soldiers. Another stone in the shoe of the Russian generals, who did not expect that they would have to manage an endless caravan of frightened tourists …