Massive explosion destroys the only bridge between Russia and Crimea in suspected attack by Ukraine


A crucial bridge linking Russia and Ukraine has exploded in a suspected attack by Ukrainian saboteurs this morning, just hours after Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

Videos show the explosion rocking the Kerch Bridge linking the peninsula with the Russian mainland. The attack could cut supplies to Putin’s forces as Ukraine makes more advances in the south towards Kherson.

A section of the bridge has collapsed into the sea and a train caught fire in the blast. Long fuel lines are already forming in Crimea, despite Russian claims to have enough supplies to last two weeks.

Although Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack, one Ukrainian official boasted that ‘Putin should be happy. Not everyone gets such an expensive birthday present’ – a reference to the Russian president’s 70th birthday yesterday.

It is unclear if a suicide bombing caused the blast, but there have been no reports of incoming missiles. Some witnesses claimed there were two explosions .

A voice on one video is heard saying: ‘It seems to me there were two explosions, no? — If it was a missile, it would hit the second [rail] bridge too in any case.’

There were suggestions Putin may address the nation on the bridge explosion amid fears he will unleash havoc on Ukraine.

He has already hinted that he could use nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine. 

A massive explosion, believed to have been carried out by Ukrainian saboteurs, rocked the bridge early this morning

The Kherch Bridge is the only direct link between Russia and Crimea and is a crucial supply line for Russian forces in Ukraine

The Kherch Bridge is the only direct link between Russia and Crimea and is a crucial supply line for Russian forces in Ukraine

The explosion is the latest setback in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Putin's forces struggling to hold ground in the past few months

The explosion is the latest setback in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Putin’s forces struggling to hold ground in the past few months 

The rail bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula can be seen engulfed in flames on the right, while a huge section of the road bridge has collapsed into the sea

The rail bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula can be seen engulfed in flames on the right, while a huge section of the road bridge has collapsed into the sea 

The cause of the fire is not yet clear but Ukraine has been targeting Russian logistics in recent weeks

The cause of the fire is not yet clear but Ukraine has been targeting Russian logistics in recent weeks 

The fire continued to rage on the rail bridge following the explosion as Russian state media said a fuel tank was on fire

The fire continued to rage on the rail bridge following the explosion as Russian state media said a fuel tank was on fire 

Eyewitnesses said the enormous blast could be heard from miles away, and a column of smoke could be seen rising over the Black Sea

Eyewitnesses said the enormous blast could be heard from miles away, and a column of smoke could be seen rising over the Black Sea 

A senior Ukrainian official welcomed the news of the explosion, saying he hope it would help to drive Russia out of the country.

Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to President Zelensky, said on Twitter: ‘Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. 

‘Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.’

The Ukrainian defence ministry said on social media: ‘The guided missile cruiser Moskva and the Kerch Bridge – two notorious symbols of Ukrainian Crimea – have gone down. What’s next in line, russkis?’ 

The blast on the Kerch bridge came at 3am GMT today as Ukraine continues its counter-offensive against Russian forces in the south and east of the country.

Footage shows the rail bridge engulfed in flames with the road bridge next to it partially collapsed.

Witnesses claimed the huge explosion could be heard from miles away as a train in the middle of the bridge burst into flames. 

There were questions why X-rays scanning trucks on the bridge had not detected the explosives.

The entrances at both ends are equipped with Russian-designed ST-6035 ‘stationary radio-technical inspection complexes’ intended to identify explosives.

‘The fire is now being extinguished on the Crimean bridge,’ said Crimean official Oleg Kryuchkov.

‘As soon as it is over, the damage to the bridge will be assessed, and then we can talk about the restoration timeline.’

Huge queues appeared at petrol stations in Crimea in the wake of the bridge’s destruction, soon after the Russian puppet authorities said there was petrol for 40 days.

Other sources said there was only 15 days of fuel as panic buyers queued for hours.

Locals were also rationed to 3kg of essential groceries amid fears for supplies to the peninsula, said reports in the peninsula.

A video shows a Russian man in Crimea saying: ‘We’ve had a good life, but it was short-lived

‘The end of the bridge.

‘The ways [of escape] are now cut off.’

Pro-Putin military correspondent Yuri Kotyonok joined a wave of demands for overwhelming Russian attacks on Ukraine.

‘The answer for blowing up the bridge should be crushing.

‘The question is not about revenge, but about punishment and our capacity as a state responding to terrorist attacks.

‘The Crimean Bridge will certainly be restored. I hope that they will do it promptly — within a few months.’

He asked for answers on why ‘targets in Kyiv are still intact’.

Yuri Podolyaka, a popular pro-Rus blogger, said: ‘It looks like this is the prelude to the main strike of the Ukrainians in the south.

‘If over the next few days Ukraine does not plunge into darkness and strikes are not carried out on the bridges across the Dnieper, I personally will consider it a sign of an [epic failure].’

Vladimir Rogov, chairman of ‘We are Together with Russia’ movement, and a key official in occupied Ukraine, said: ‘The Crimean bridge has been blown up. Both the road and railway lines have been cut.

‘The [Ukraine] terrorist entity must be destroyed.’

He published exact map coordinates of targets he wanted hit in Ukraine.

The fire occurred hours after explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early on Saturday, sending plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of secondary explosions.

Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said the early-morning explosions were the result of missile strikes in the centre of the city.

He added that the blasts sparked fires at one of the city’s medical institutions and a non-residential building. There were no immediate reports of casualties.  

The cause of the fire is not yet known but Russian state TV claimed a fuel tank was on fire on the bridge. 

Pictures in the aftermath of the explosion show the devastation it caused on the crucial road and rail bridge

Pictures in the aftermath of the explosion show the devastation it caused on the crucial road and rail bridge 

Later this morning, smoke could still be seen billowing out over the sea as the bridge was closed to all traffic

Later this morning, smoke could still be seen billowing out over the sea as the bridge was closed to all traffic

The fire could still be seen burning from miles away from a suspected fuel tank on a train was hit by the explosion

The fire could still be seen burning from miles away from a suspected fuel tank on a train was hit by the explosion

The road section of the Kerch Bridge was severely damaged by the blast - it is not known how long it could take to repair

The road section of the Kerch Bridge was severely damaged by the blast – it is not known how long it could take to repair 

A helicopter was used to drop water and try and extinguish the flames on the bridge earlier this morning

A helicopter was used to drop water and try and extinguish the flames on the bridge earlier this morning

People posed for photos with a giant postage stamp of the bridge on fire today following the explosion

People posed for photos with a giant postage stamp of the bridge on fire today following the explosion 

The blast has been welcomed by man in Ukraine as the latest blow against Putin's regime as his forces continue to suffer setbacks

The blast has been welcomed by man in Ukraine as the latest blow against Putin’s regime as his forces continue to suffer setbacks 

Russian officials said they faced an ’emergency’ on the bridge with the train on fire.

A Russian Telegram channel said: ‘It is likely that an improvised explosive device hidden in any of the passing vehicles was detonated.’

Videos showed the massive inferno on the bridge – opened in 2018 – which the Ukrainians have long threatened to target.

Comments on one video said: ‘Looks like something flew into the bridge’ and: ‘They exploded it.’

Russia initially admitted to a fuel storage tank catching fire at 6am local time but it was unclear if a bomb or missile had caused the ignition.

Oleg Kryuchkov, aide to the Kremlin-appointed head of annexed Crimea, said: ‘According to preliminary information, a fuel storage tank is on fire….

‘Navigable arches were not damaged.

‘It is too early to speak about causes and consequences.

‘Work to extinguish the blaze is under way.’

Initial reports said the road section of the cross as well as the rail part was damaged.

Several drivers echoed a comment that ‘something is lying on the road’.

Local comments on video suggested an ‘explosion’ as if from a bomb or missile but there was no immediate confirmation.

Russian-controlled Crimean Railways said: ‘A fuel tank at the tail of a freight train caught fire.

‘The locomotive with some carriages was brought to Kerch station.’

The bridge crosses from Crimea to Russia’s Krasnodar region.

If it is out of action, it will hit Putin’s supply routes to the territory he grabbed eight years ago.

Ukraine in recent days has grown more ambition in predicting they will retake the peninsula.

Rybar pro-Russian Telegram channel reported:

‘There was an explosion at around 6am on one of the sections of the Crimean Bridge.

‘According to official reports, a fuel tanker caught fire.

‘Road services and the Emergencies Ministry are working at the scene of the fire and traffic has been temporarily suspended.

‘However, photos and video footage show one of the vehicles being put out of action, which in no way could have happened due to a simple fire.

‘It is likely that an improvised explosive device hidden in any of the passing vehicles was detonated.’

Russian source speculation on an underwater drone being responsible for the attack on the Crimean Bridge – long seen as a prize target by the Ukrainians.

Pro-Kremlin war reporter Andrey Rudenko said: ‘What kind of power did the explosion have to for a span of the bridge to go under water?

‘It is quite possible to assume that the main explosion was underwater.

‘At the beginning of the year, there were reports that the West had supplied Ukraine with underwater kamikaze drones.’

Pro-Putin military correspondent Yuri Kotyonok said: 'The answer for blowing up the bridge should be crushing'

Pro-Putin military correspondent Yuri Kotyonok said: ‘The answer for blowing up the bridge should be crushing’

Army General Sergey Surovikin is reported to have taken charge of Putin's war in Ukraine after a series of setbacks for Russian since it invaded in February

Army General Sergey Surovikin is reported to have taken charge of Putin’s war in Ukraine after a series of setbacks for Russian since it invaded in February 

The British Ministry of Defence said in June: 'For over thirty years, Surovikin's (right) career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality'

The British Ministry of Defence said in June: ‘For over thirty years, Surovikin’s (right) career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality’

Ukraine has been launching a successful counter-offensive against Russia in the last few weeks, claiming miles of territory

Ukraine has been launching a successful counter-offensive against Russia in the last few weeks, claiming miles of territory  

Ukraine has won back hundreds of settlements and miles of territory as it pushes back against Russian forces in the east of the country

Ukraine has won back hundreds of settlements and miles of territory as it pushes back against Russian forces in the east of the country 

The apparent attack came the day after Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday.

He called for immediate vengeance against Kyiv.

‘However, I’m sure now what happened will be [officially] declared a disaster [not caused by Ukraine].

But then Russia will ‘do the right thing’.

‘It is necessary to answer in such a way that the earth burns under the feet of these creatures.’

The blast came as a new Russian general was reportedly put in charge of Putin’s ‘special military operation’.

Though not officially announced, Army General Sergey Surovikin has taken over command, say reports.

The British Ministry of Defence said in June: ‘For over thirty years, Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.’

The conversation was caught with two men in a car on the bridge.

‘We better leave it I guess,’ one said.

‘What do we do?’

‘I have young children.’

One of the men makes a call to an Anatoly [Tolya] saying: ‘I ‘m going to be late, the bridge is on fire.’

Queues of cars were reported on the peninsula, with some drivers accommodated at Kerch airport.

‘A temporary accommodation facility was set up at the airport site with toilets, tents, food and water.

‘Car traffic is currently diverted to the airport.’

Russia stuck to the line that it was a train fire.

‘A truck was blown up on the Crimean bridge’, RBC was told in Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee.

‘This led to the ignition of seven fuel tanks of the train. Two car spans of the bridge partially collapsed.’

Fury was building after the destruction of the bridge among pro-war Moscow commentators.

Vladimir Kornilov, RIA Novosti state media columnist, said: ‘I know what we are about to hear: it is time to hit the decision-making centres and leave not a single bridge intact in Kyiv.

‘I would say this too, if it had not been said a million times already.

‘One thing is certain: as long as we do not respond harshly to more and more brazen sabotage by limiting ourselves to empty threats, this sabotage will only intensify and intensify.’

Anton Krasovsky, RT media boss, said: ‘For the bridge it is necessary to answer ruthlessly. [Attack] Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr. Stop being patient!’

How Ukraine could achieve victory against Russia: As Kyiv’s forces advance in the south and east, expert lays out the path to victory – with all roads leading to Crimea 

‘This war began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation,’ President Volodymyr Zelesnky declared back in August. And, according to military experts, that is exactly what his generals are aiming to do. 

Ben Hodges, former commander of American forces in Europe, has outlined what he believes to be the Ukrainian route to victory – going via the cities of Kherson and Mariupol and ending ‘when the last Russian soldier crosses the [Kerch] bridge out of Crimea.’ 

General Hodges, now at the Center for European Policy Analysis, believes Ukraine’s main effort will remain capturing Kherson in the south – where a major assault has been underway since early August – with a secondary attack hooking down through the Donbas and towards the city of Mariupol.

When Mariupol falls, he told a CEPA conference last week, those troops would also converge on Crimea – hammering the peninsula with HIMARS rockets and forcing the Russians back beyond the border.

Dr Mike Martin, a visiting fellow of war studies at King’s College, also raised the prospect of a third assault with Ukraine using its reserves to split the Russian frontline in two and making it difficult for Putin to move reinforcements around as he gave his own thoughts on Twitter.

Nothing is guaranteed in war, and Putin will certainly do everything in his power to stop Kyiv – from piling conscripts on to the frontlines to possibly using a nuclear weapon.

But, as Ukraine’s path to victory becomes clearer, MailOnline examines how it could play out…

General Ben Hodges, former commander of US forces in Europe, has outlined what he believes to be Ukraine's path to victory against Russia - saying that 'Crimea is the prize' and the war will end 'when the last Russian soldier walks along the [Kerch bridge, connecting the peninsula with mainland Russia]'

General Ben Hodges, former commander of US forces in Europe, has outlined what he believes to be Ukraine’s path to victory against Russia – saying that ‘Crimea is the prize’ and the war will end ‘when the last Russian soldier walks along the [Kerch bridge, connecting the peninsula with mainland Russia]’

Kherson

Ukraine began its much-vaunted counter-attack on the Kherson region in early August and has been making gradual progress ever since – though reports have started emerging of a breakthrough this week.

The goal, touted by Kyiv, is to re-take the city of Kherson from Russian control. It is the only regional capital seized by Putin so-far during the war, and occupies a strategic position – spanning the Dnipro River where it flows into the Dniprovska Gulf and on to the Black Sea.

Taking it would deprive Russia of its only toe-hold on the west bank of the Dnipro, all-but rule out any assault on Odessa, give proof to the lie of Putin’s sham referendums and claims to annexation, and open the door to an assault on Crimea – the jewel in the Ukrainian crown.

Ukraine has been steadily fighting its way towards the city of Kherson for the last two months, and may have scored a breakthrough this week amid reports of Russian forces withdrawing more than 10 miles

Ukraine has been steadily fighting its way towards the city of Kherson for the last two months, and may have scored a breakthrough this week amid reports of Russian forces withdrawing more than 10 miles

Ukrainian special forces troops are pictured advancing across the south of Ukraine amid reports of a breakthrough in Russian lines that may have pushed Putin's men back more than 10 miles

Ukrainian special forces troops are pictured advancing across the south of Ukraine amid reports of a breakthrough in Russian lines that may have pushed Putin’s men back more than 10 miles

Ukrainian tanks

Ukrainian tanks

Ukrainian tanks open fire on Russian positions in Kherson, amid a major offensive in the region that aims to recapture the city from Russia – which would be a major blow to Putin’s invasion

General Hodges estimated that breaking the pocket in Kherson may take ‘weeks’. Ukraine itself has given no such timeline. But victory here, if it can be achieved, would be a watershed moment.

Russia has stationed most of its remaining forces in Ukraine, and almost all of its best fighting units, in the city – perhaps up to 30,000 troops in total – and their loss would be a blow the Kremlin would struggle to recover from. 

And, should Kherson fall, Kyiv has left observers in little doubt about what would come next. 

In the build-up to the assault on Kherson, several large explosions rocked the Crimea – destroying ammo dumps, airfields, and resupply routes. Kyiv was slow to claim responsibility, perhaps trying to disguise what weapon it used for the attacks – which seemed to go beyond its known capabilities – or perhaps fearing escalation by Putin.

The despot, after all, annexed Crimea in 2014 making it – in the Kremlin’s eyes at least – part of Russia.

But, in a speech on August 10, Zelensky vowed: ‘Crimea is Ukrainian and we will never give it up. This Russian war…began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation.’

Kharkiv/Donbas

Until a few weeks ago, this frontline looked radically different: Ukraine holding out against Russian long-range attacks in the north in Kharkiv, while Russia made grinding advances in the south around Bakhmut.

But a surprise Ukrainian counter-attack, launched after Russia had relocated some of its best units to the south to help defend Kherson, changed everything.

A breakthrough in Russian lines turned into a rapid advance and then total rout of Putin’s armies in the Kharkiv region, returning an estimated 3,000 square miles to Ukrainian control in just a few days of fighting.

So hasty was the retreat, that Ukrainians reported finding food still sitting on stoves when they arrived in abandoned Russian encampments. Dozens of vehicles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized.

A stunning Ukrainian counter-attack east out of Kharkiv has slowed but has not stopped, with the city of Lyman now under Kyiv's control and its troops pushing towards the cities of Svatove and Kreminna

A stunning Ukrainian counter-attack east out of Kharkiv has slowed but has not stopped, with the city of Lyman now under Kyiv’s control and its troops pushing towards the cities of Svatove and Kreminna

Ukrainian troops are filmed ambushing Russian armoured vehicles using anti-tank launchers in Donetsk, leaving at least one of them destroyed

Ukrainian troops are filmed ambushing Russian armoured vehicles using anti-tank launchers in Donetsk, leaving at least one of them destroyed

And the offensive is still going. Russia has regrouped and Ukraine’s advance has slowed, but it has not stopped. 

Lyman, a major transport node in northern Donetsk, was captured at the weekend. Troops are now advancing from there towards Kreminna, in neighbouring Luhansk, and from Borova to Svatove in the same region.

Should those two fall, it would open the way for an attack on the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk – which Russia expended blood, sweat, and ammunition capturing over the course of weeks and which is key to its claim of having ‘liberated’ the Luhansk region. 

From there, Ukraine could choose to attack either of the regional capitals – the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk – or to bypass them and push south towards the sea and the city of Mariupol.

That is certainly the conclusion that General Hodges has come to. 

‘My sense is that the operations that are underway now – the northern arm that is coming down from Kharkiv towards Donetsk, [and’ that’s heading straight towards Mariupol,’ he told the CEPA conference. 

Aside from Kherson, Mariupol has been the other prize captured by Putin in a little over seven months of war, having worn down the heroic Ukrainian defenders to the point of surrender – which came back in May. 

Should Ukraine re-capture Mariupol, it would be a hammer blow. Russia painted the Azov Battalion – who defended the city – as war criminals and neo-Nazis. Putin’s claim to be ‘de-Nazifying’ Ukraine is, at least in part, based on destroying this unit and taking the city.

Should Mariupol fall, General Hodges believes the Ukrainian forces will head in one direction: ‘Towards Crimea.’ 

Reserves?

‘When and where to commit your reserve is literally THE question for the theatre commander,’ Dr Mike Martin of King’s College wrote on Twitter around a month ago, after the extent of Ukraine’s counter-attack around Kharkiv became clear. 

Much remains unknown about Ukraine’s reserves. Kyiv has kept the size of its armed forces and its casualties a closely-guarded secret, meaning it is impossible to guess at how many men it might have ready and able to deploy and what kind of equipment they could be armed with.

However, Kyiv has carried out a general mobilisation of the population – unlike Russia, which has belatedly gone for ‘partial’ mobilisation – meaning every man aged up to 65 is eligible to be called up, which would amount to millions of troops if they could all be armed and trained.

So, the question is: Where, how and when does Ukraine use these forces? 

Ukraine has an unknown number of troops in reserve, but has fully mobilised its population - giving it a pool of millions to draw on, and they could be used for an attack

Ukraine has an unknown number of troops in reserve, but has fully mobilised its population – giving it a pool of millions to draw on, and they could be used for an attack 

Kyiv has carried out a general mobilisation of the population - unlike Russia, which has belatedly gone for 'partial' mobilisation

  Kyiv has carried out a general mobilisation of the population – unlike Russia, which has belatedly gone for ‘partial’ mobilisation

Dr Martin, posting on Twitter today, believes he has found the answer. ‘Ukraine [would use] its strategic reserve to sever the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine into two pieces that cannot mutually reinforce.’

Alongside the tweet he posted a hastily-drawn map showing the presumed direction of the advance, from the cetnral cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia towards Mariupol and nearby Berdyansk.

Aside from skirmishes around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and Ukrainian partisan activity, this front has been relatively calm since Russia advanced across it early in the war – but Dr Martin suggests it could soon find itself at the centre of the action.

The trust – assuming Ukraine can do it – makes sense. It would free up the forces near Kharkiv to focus on attacking Luhansk and Donetsk, liberating the Donbas from Russian control. And it would prevent Putin from pulling any units out of Kherson to help defend the region – unless they were willing to punch through Ukrainian lines.

Crimea

‘Crimea is the prize. That’s what it is going to be. Victory will be when the last Russian solider walks across that long bridge,’ predicts General Hodges – speaking about the bridge Putin ordered built across the Kerch Strait, connecting Crimea with the Russian mainland.

Mark Hertling, another former US general speaking at the same CEPA event, agreed that the peninsula is where Ukraine is aiming to get. But, he cautioned, taking it is going to be ‘a tough fight’.

Unlike the rest of Ukraine, which is primarily flat and open, the Crimean peninsula is largely separated from the mainland by what General Hertling describes as ‘marshland’ – a series of small islands with only two main roads that Ukrainian forces can use to attack it.

Even assuming that Russian forces are in bad shape by the time any assault comes, that still makes them extremely vulnerable and limits Kyiv’s options for how to go about the operation.

Several large explosions have rocked a military airbase in Russian-held Crimea this afternoon as an ominous mushroom cloud sent bathers fleeing from nearby beaches

Several large explosions have rocked a military airbase in Russian-held Crimea this afternoon as an ominous mushroom cloud sent bathers fleeing from nearby beaches

A large mushroom cloud is seen rising from the scene of explosions at a Russian held airbase in Novofedorivka, Crimea

A large mushroom cloud is seen rising from the scene of explosions at a Russian held airbase in Novofedorivka, Crimea

Smoke rises after explosions at a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, in occupied Crimea, August 9

Smoke rises after explosions at a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, in occupied Crimea, August 9

‘When Russia invaded in 2014 they used mostly naval infantry and special operators to go into Crimea,’ General Hertling said. ‘Ukraine don’t have ships right now, they don’t have naval operations – so it is going to take some long-range [artillery] to go in there. 

‘But you can’t take ground with just artillery, you have to have some people go in there on the ground to do that. It is going to be a tough fight.’

And Putin, General Hertling is certain, will put up a fight to keep Crimea – provided he is still the one at the helm.

‘If Mr Putin is still in power he will view [an attack on Crimea] as even more contentious than attacks in the other oblasts of Ukraine,’ he added. ‘We have not yet seen Russia use their strategic bomber fleet, we have not yet seen them use their naval forces to the extreme that they potentially could.

‘What you might ask is: Should we be as concerned about their air and their navy forces given how we’ve seen the disfunction in their ground forces? I would say probably. But they still have those available.’

General Hodges agreed, but believes that once Ukrainian artillery – particularly the devastating HIMARS systems – get within range of Russian bases in Crimea they will become ‘untenable’ and Putin will have ‘a choice’. 

‘I think the Ukrainians will leave that big bridge up as an invitation to leave,’ General Hodges added.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk