Crimea bridge explosion blamed on Russian infighting

Crimea bridge ‘big blow’ to Russia says expert

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A top Ukrainian presidential aide has claimed one of Vladimir Putin’s warring commanders ordered an explosion which damaged a bridge linking Russia to Crimea. Mykhailo Podolyak alleged the attack was of Russian origin.

He claimed Russia’s FSB secret service and private military organisations are battling with the Russian Defence Ministry, vying to undermine each other’s credibility in a bitter fight over the course of the war.

Mr Podolyak wrote on Twitter: “FSB/PMC try to eliminate leadership of Defense Ministry/GHQ… Isn’t it obvious who made an explosion? Truck arrived from RF [Russian Federation].”

Putin accused Ukraine of orchestrating the powerful blast which damaged the key bridge on Saturday, claiming the explosion was an act of terrorism.

The Russian dictator said in a video on the Kremlin’s Telegram channel: “There is no doubt. This is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure…

“This was devised, carried out and ordered by the Ukrainian special services.”

His statement came after a Russian missile attack struck an apartment block and other residential buildings in Ukraine’s southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least 13 people and wounding 89 others, according to Ukrainian officials.

The pre-dawn strikes were the second such attack against the city in three days.

Putin was meeting Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, who presented findings of an inquiry into what he said was Saturday’s explosion of a vehicle and subsequent fire on the bridge.

The bridge over the Kerch Strait is a key supply route for Moscow’s forces in southern Ukraine.

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It is also a major artery for the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based.

Speaking on camera, Mr Bastrykin said investigators had established the route the vehicle had taken and the individuals who were involved in its movements.

He said it had gone through Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, South Ossetia and Russia’s Krasnodar region before arriving on the bridge.

The damage to the bridge, a previously imposing symbol of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, came amid battlefield defeats for Russia.

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It could further cloud Kremlin reassurances the conflict is going to plan.

Rail services and partial road traffic resumed a day after the blast.

Images showed half of a section of the bridge’s roadway blown away, with the other half still attached.

The 12-mile long bridge was opened with great fanfare four years ago by Putin.

Crimea’s Russian governor, Sergei Aksyonov, told reporters residents would manage despite the damage to the route.

He said: “Of course, emotions have been triggered and there is a healthy desire to seek revenge.”

Mr Aksyonov has said Crimea had a month’s worth of fuel and more than two months’ worth of food.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday its forces in southern Ukraine could be fully supplied through existing land and sea routes.

In the Zaporizhzhia attack, Russian aircraft launched at least 12 missiles, partially destroying a nine-storey apartment block, levelling five other residential buildings and damaging many more, Oleksandr Starukh, governor of the region, said on state-run television.

Sixty wounded people were hospitalised, Ukrainian officials said. They included 11 children.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack as absolute evil by people he called savages and terrorists. He vowed those responsible would be brought to justice.

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