Russia’s road-and-rail bridge to Crimea was destroyed by a huge explosion on Saturday, striking a prestigious symbol of Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula and the main supply line to soldiers trying to keep territory gained in southern Ukraine.
The early-morning explosion of the Kerch Strait bridge drew celebratory messages from Ukrainian officials but no claim of credit; Russia did not immediately place blame.
The infrastructure that supplies the peninsula with power and natural gas as well as the bridge were all mandated to have greater protection by a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin.
Additionally, he mandated the formation of an investigative committee.
According to Russian officials, the three deceased were likely automobile passengers who were in the vicinity of a truck that had blown up. The top level of the bridge also caught fire, along with seven gasoline tanker wagons on a train going to the peninsula.
About 10 hours later, limited road traffic was authorized to resume, and shortly after that, rail traffi was allowed to continue.
The 19-km (12-mile) Crimean Bridge, which connects Crimea to Russia’s transportation network, was ceremoniously opened by Putin four years after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
It is a major artery for Russian forces who control most of southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, and for the Russian naval port of Sevastopol, whose governor told locals: “Keep calm. Don’t panic.”
It was unclear whether the bomb was intentional, but the destruction to such high-profile infrastructure occurred during a period in which Russia has suffered many battlefield losses, potentially clouding Kremlin words of comfort that the fight is proceeding as planned.
Immediately after the seven fuel wagons caught fire, quick-thinking railroad personnel disconnected them, stopping the fire from spreading to the other 52 wagons, according to Russian Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov, who spoke to Tass.
The explosion occurred a day after Putin’s 70th birthday and coincided with the nomination of Air Force General Sergei Surovikin to lead the invasion campaign, Russia’s third top military appointment in a week.