RT explains the significance of the transportation artery which Kiev has repeatedly threatened
https://www.rt.com/-FILE PHOTO: Crimean Bridge. © AFP / Alexey Nikolsky
Russian authorities said on Saturday that what was likely a truck bombing had damaged the strategic Crimean Bridge, which connects the peninsula with the country’s mainland. The Foreign Ministry stated that the incident was proof of the “terrorist nature” of the regime in Ukraine.
Traffic on the bridge has been closed off after the blast caused a partial collapse of the road section and a fire on the railway portion.
The blast followed threats from Kiev, which has claimed responsibility for an attack that left three civilians dead.
What is the Crimean Bridge?
The bridge through the Kerch Strait consists of two parallel sections: a four-lane road for vehicles and a double-track railway for passenger and freight trains.
It is 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) long and equipped with 35-meter (144.8 feet) arches, which allow ships to pass underneath.
When was it built?
There were no bridges between Crimea and the rest of Russia before 2018. Moscow unveiled plans for the project shortly after Crimea voted to leave Ukraine in the wake of the 2014 coup in Kiev and join Russia. It took four years to build and cost 228 billion rubles ($3.7 billion).
The road section was launched in May 2018, while rail service became fully operational in 2020. President Vladimir Putin described it at the time as “a symbol of Crimea’s reunification with Russia,” as well as a driver of the peninsula’s economy.
Why is the bridge so important?
As the only bridge between the peninsula and mainland Russia, it is a vital transport and supply artery, serving as the easiest and fastest route for delivering essential goods and fuel.
Ordinary people have made good use of the infrastructure as well. The regional government said early last month that this year alone 3.3 million tourists had visited Crimea, a popular summer holiday spot, and a record 1.2 million vehicles had crossed the bridge.
It’s also important for the military, because it allows for columns of tanks, artillery guns and other heavy equipment to be brought in quickly by rail. The Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the supply of troops will continue uninterrupted by both land and sea.
What is Russia doing after the explosion?
Crimea’s sole large civilian airport in Simferopol closed after Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring country in February. Residents now have to again rely on ferries, which were urgently relaunched on Saturday.
Another travel option is the longer journey by land, which became available after four former Ukrainian territories joined Russia earlier this month. Officials said they would reroute some supply lines through this newly acquired ‘land bridge’.
How did Kiev react to the blast?
Kiev considers Crimea illegally occupied and Ukrainian officials have floated ideas of attacking the bridge in the past. In August, Mikhail Podoliak, an aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, said that the bridge would be a legitimate target as “the main gateway to supply the Russian Army in Crimea.”
On Saturday, Podoliak tweeted that the blast was “just the beginning,” adding that “everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine.”