Day after mass explosion of Crimea bridge, traffic resumes on main connection with Moscow

Car traffic has resumed on Sunday on the bridge connecting Russia to Crimea – widely seen as the Kremlin’s annexation of the peninsula – which was partially destroyed by a massive explosion a day ago. Moscow had attributed the explosion to a truck bomb. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to tighten security measures for the bridge connecting the Russia-annexed region to the mainland.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin told reporters that “traffic has been fully restored” on the bridge’s railway, according to state news agency Ria Novosti. He added in a Telegram message that the resumption is for “both freight and passenger traffic” and that one of the destroyed lanes would be restored “in the near future”.

At least three people were killed in the explosion on the bridge in Crimea on Saturday. The incident took place a day after Putin celebrated his 70th birthday. While some in Moscow alluded to Ukrainian “terrorism”, state media continued to call it an “emergency”. Meanwhile, the explosion was reported to have sparked celebrations in Ukraine and by his supporters on social media, even though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not directly mention the explosion in his overnight speech.

On the same day, the Kremlin also announced the appointment of a new general to his Ukraine offensive after a series of setbacks on the battlefield that caused unprecedented criticism of his army at home.

Several videos went viral on social media platforms, showing the 19-kilometer road-and-rail bridge on fire, with several oil tankers set on fire and two lanes of traffic collapsing with parts plunging into the water. Authorities had identified the owner of the truck as a resident of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region, and said his home was searched.

Damage Control

The Kremlin spokesman said Putin had ordered a commission to be set up to investigate the blast. In addition, Russian divers are said to have been appointed to investigate the damage caused by the powerful explosion on the bridge to Crimea. Although officials in Moscow did not blame Kiev, a Russian-installed official in Crimea pointed the finger at “Ukrainian vandals.”

Some officials in Moscow and in Russian-occupied Ukraine even called for retaliation.

The bridge is a logistically crucial zone for Moscow, an essential transport link for the transport of military equipment to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin personally inaugurated the bridge in 2018 — even drove a truck over it — and Moscow had insisted the crossing was safe.

Crimea was annexed to Russia in 2014 and has been dependent on mainland Russia for food and fuel ever since.

The explosions come after Ukraine’s recent lightning territorial gains to the east and south that have undermined the Kremlin’s claim that it annexed Donetsk, neighboring Lugansk and the southern regions of Zaporizhia and Kherson.

(With input from agencies)

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