Vital bridge linking Crimea with Russia damaged, Russian Transport Ministry says

By Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh, CNN

CNN  —  The Crimean Bridge, the only link between the annexed peninsula and Russia, has suffered damage to its spans, Russia’s Transport Ministry said Monday as multiple Telegram channels reported strikes on the bridge and a local official confirmed at least two deaths.

“There is damage to the roadway on spans of the Crimean Bridge,” the Transport Ministry said on Telegram.

The spans on a bridge are the lengths between the support piers.

Last October, a huge blast partially damaged the bridge, causing parts of it to collapse.

Sergey Aksenov, the Russia-appointed head of Crimea, said an “emergency incident” had been reported, halting traffic on the bridge, which serves as a vital logistical node for Moscow’s military in its war against Ukraine.

Two strikes were allegedly carried out on the bridge around 3 a.m. local time, damaging part of the bridge, according to the Telegram channel Grey Zone, which supports the Wagner mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Explosions were heard around 3:04 a.m. and 3:20 a.m. local time, Grey Zone and popular Crimean blogger ‘TalipoV Online Z’ said on Telegram.

CNN is unable to verify the reports.

Videos posted on Telegram by Baza, Grey Zone and other Crimean news outlets appeared to show part of the bridge collapsed and a vehicle damaged in the latest incident.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, confirmed that two people were killed and a third person was injured in the incident.

Gladkov said a girl was injured and her parents were killed while traveling in the car that was damaged in the incident.

Emergency responders and law enforcement have been dispatched to the scene, said Aksenov, the head of Crimea. The Transport Ministry said an inspection of the bridge was underway.

Aksenov urged residents and those traveling to and from Crimea to choose an alternative land route.

The nearly 12-mile bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, is the longest in Europe and carries both road and rail traffic.

The bridge was severely damaged on October 8 when a fuel tanker exploded and destroyed a large section of the road.

It holds huge strategic and symbolic importance for Russia, which built the 19-kilometer bridge at a cost of around $3.7 billion after Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It was the physical expression of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever.

It is a critical artery for supplying Crimea with both its daily needs and supplies for the military, in addition to fuel and goods for civilians.

A Russian-backed official of the peninsula, Elena Elekchyan, said Crimea is well supplied with fuel, food and industrial goods.

After the October 8 blast, Russia quickly set about repairs to the span. It was fully reopened to traffic in February.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the October attack.

A Ukraine official on Monday said damage to the bridge could hamper Russian logistics.

“Any logistical problems are additional complications for the occupiers, which create potential advantages for the Ukrainian defense forces,” Representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine Andrii Yusov said to Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne.

Yusov did not claim any Ukrainian responsibility for the attack.

“As for the reasons for this (damage), we do not comment,” he said.

This is a developing story, more to follow.

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