On October 8, traffic resumed over a crucial bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, seen as a symbol of the Kremlin’s annexation of the peninsula, after it was largely destroyed by an explosion blamed on a truck bomb.
On the same day, the Kremlin announced the hiring of a new general to command its Ukraine push, following a series of battlefield failures that prompted unprecedented domestic criticism of its troops. According to Russian authorities, the 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge was hit by a bomb at dawn on October 8, killing three people, igniting six oil tankers, and collapsing two traffic lanes.
Ukrainians and others celebrated the explosion on social media, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made no direct mention of it in his nightly speech, and officials made no claim of responsibility. According to state news agency Ria Novosti, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin told reporters that “traffic has been entirely restored” on the bridge’s railway.
In an earlier Telegram post, Mr. Khusnullin confirmed the restoration of “both freight and passenger traffic,” and stated one of the wrecked lanes would be restored “in the near future.”. Local officials announced earlier in the day that the bridge was reopened to automobile traffic, with vehicles subject to strict screening, and rail operator Grand Service Express announced that the first trains had left peninsula for Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Less than 24 hours before Moscow’s statements, dramatic social media imagery showed the bridge on fire, with pieces falling into the ocean. Following the explosion, the bodies of an unnamed man and a woman were retrieved from the water, believed to be occupants of a car driving near the exploding truck, according to Moscow.
Authorities said the truck’s owner was a resident of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region, and that his home was being examined.
Situation of emergency
The bridge is critical logistically for Moscow, serving as a vital transportation link for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. It’s also very symbolic. President Vladimir Putin personally inaugurated the bridge in 2018, even driving a truck across it, and despite the conflict, Moscow claimed the crossing was safe.
While some in Moscow suggested Ukrainian “terrorism,” state media referred to the situation as an “emergency situation.”. Mr. Zelensky spoke of a “sunny” future for Ukrainians, one free of occupiers, “particularly in Crimea,” in his speech.
While he made no mention of the vital bridge, his assistant Mykhailo Podolyak had earlier tweeted a picture of a long piece of the bridge that was half-submerged. He wrote, “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything unlawful must be destroyed, everything stolen must be restored to Ukraine, and everything under Russian occupation must be ejected.”.
However, in a later comment, he appeared to imply that Moscow was involved in the blast. “It’s worth noting that the truck that exploded apparently reached the bridge from the Russian side. As a result, explanations should be sought in Russia “He stated.
The Ukrainian Postal Service revealed plans to create stamps depicting the “Crimean bridge – or, more precisely, what remains of it.”. Mr. Putin, according to the Kremlin’s spokesman, has authorized the formation of a commission to investigate the blast.
Moscow officials stopped short of accusing Kyiv, while a Russian-installed official in Crimea blamed “Ukrainian vandals.”
Threats of reprisal
Retaliation was called for by some officials in Moscow and in Russian-occupied Ukraine. “There is an open terrorist war against us,” Russian ruling party deputy Oleg Morozov told RIA Novosti. “Everyone is waiting for a retaliatory strike, and it is sure to occur,” said Kirill Stremousov, a Russian-installed official in the seized Ukrainian Kherson region.
Military analysts believe the bomb might have a significant impact if Moscow decides to deploy soldiers from other regions to Crimea, or if the population rushes to evacuate. Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, stated that even if Ukrainians were not responsible for the explosion, it was a “huge influence operation win for Ukraine.”
“It shows Russians and the rest of the world that Russia’s military cannot secure any of the provinces it recently acquired,” he wrote on Twitter. Crimean authorities attempted to allay concerns about food and fuel shortages in the peninsula, which has been reliant on the Russian mainland since Moscow annexed it in 2014.
The explosions follow Ukraine’s recent lightning the territorial advances in east and south, which have called into question Kremlin’s assertion that it seized Donetsk, neighboring Lugansk, and the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces.
Moscow names a new general
After weeks of military losses, Moscow announced on October 8 that a new general, Sergei Surovikin, would take command of Russian forces in Ukraine. Mr. Surovikin previously headed Russia’s forces in Ukraine’s south. He has fought in hostilities in Tajikistan and Chechnya in the 1990s, as well as in Syria more recently.
The decision, which was made public for the first time, comes after rising unhappiness among the elite with the army’s leadership. On the same day, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, stated that Kyiv’s military had fired on a Russian border settlement, hurting a teenage girl.
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