Experts will analyse the extent of the damage as limited traffic appears to restart on a crucial bridge and Vladimir Putin orders increased infrastructure protection.
Russian divers will investigate the extent of the damage caused by a huge blast on Russia’s road-and-rail bridge to Crimea, a despised symbol of Russian control and critical logistics connection for Russian forces in southern Ukraine.
According to Russian news outlets, the divers will begin work on Sunday at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), and a more thorough inspection above the waterline should be finished by the end of the day.
“The situation is manageable – it’s uncomfortable, but not deadly,” said Crimea’s Kremlin-appointed governor, Sergei Aksyonov. “Of course, emotions have been aroused, and there is a natural desire for retribution.”
Russia has already vowed reprisal if the bridge is attacked. Celebrations in Ukraine at the damage, which is likely to make it more difficult for supplies and reinforcements to reach occupying soldiers in the south, were mingled with concerns about an escalation.
Ukraine has not claimed direct responsibility for the assault, which Russia said was carried out by a truck bomb. However, one top Ukrainian official posted a “happy birthday” greeting with photos of wreckage, and the country’s post office published plans for a commemorative stamp showing the bridge on fire within hours, raising doubts about whether the explosion was planned.
According to Aksyonov, the peninsula had a month’s supply of gasoline and more than two months’ worth of food.
According to Russia’s defence ministry, its soldiers in southern Ukraine can be “fully supplied” using existing land and maritime lines.
At least 17 persons were killed in an overnight missile assault in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday night, a local official confirmed on Sunday. According to Anatoliy Kurtev on Telegram, apartment buildings and roadways in a residential neighbourhood were destroyed.
According to Anton Gerashchenko, a senior presidential assistant to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 40 people were hurt, although the data were preliminary.
Limited vehicle traffic resumed in Crimea roughly 10 hours after the explosion on Saturday, and Russia’s transport ministry permitted rail service to continue.
The bridge is a crucial artery for Russian forces controlling much of southern Ukraine’s Kherson area, as well as the Russian naval port of Sevastopol, whose governor advised residents to “be cool and don’t panic.”
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and President Vladimir Putin celebrated the opening of the 19km (12-mile) Crimean bridge connecting the territory to Russia’s transportation network four years later. Kyiv asks that Russian soldiers vacate the Black Sea peninsula, as well as the Ukrainian land they took during Putin’s February assault.
It was unclear whether the Kerch bridge bomb was intentional, but the destruction to such a high-profile building came after many military setbacks for Russia, potentially clouding Kremlin assertions that the campaign is proceeding as planned.
On Saturday, Putin signed a decree ordering increased security for the bridge as well as the infrastructure providing Crimea with power and natural gas, as well as an inquiry.
According to James Nixey, a political expert at the British think tank Chatham House, the Russians might be able to reconstruct it but they won’t be able to defend it if they lose the battle.
According to Russian officials, three individuals were murdered, most likely the passengers of a car travelling near a truck that exploded.
Seven fuel tanker waggons of a 59-wagon train bound for the peninsula also caught fire on the bridge’s higher level.
Russia stated hours after the explosion that it has picked an infamous veteran with a violent record as its first overall commander for the war in Ukraine. Sergei Surovikin opened fire on pro-democracy protestors in the 1990s and headed Russia’s military expedition to Syria in 2017, where he was accused of employing disputed methods such as indiscriminate bombardment of anti-government forces. His nomination might imply that Moscow recognises that its military is in risk of collapsing in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces advancing in all four of the southern areas that Putin says he has seized.