Putin accuses Ukraine of orchestrating Crimean bridge explosion; calls it terrorism

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine on Sunday of orchestrating the powerful explosion that damaged a bridge between Russia and Crimea, describing the explosion as an “act of terrorism”.

“There is no doubt about it. This is a terrorist act aimed at destroying critical civilian infrastructure,” Putin said in a video posted to Kremlin’s Telegram channel.

“This was conceived, implemented and ordered by the Ukrainian special services,” Putin said.

Also read | Putin tightens security after explosion on key bridge connecting Crimea to Russia

He met Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Russian Commission of Inquiry, which presented the findings of an investigation into Saturday’s explosion and fire at the bridge.

The blast on the bridge over the Kerch Strait, a major supply route for Moscow’s troops in southern Ukraine, had sparked cheery reports from Ukrainian officials on Saturday, but claimed no responsibility.

The bridge is also an important arterial road for the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based.

The damage to the bridge, which had been an impressive symbol of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, came amid battlefield defeats for Russia, and could further cloud the Kremlin’s reassurance that the conflict is proceeding according to plan. .

Rail services and partial road traffic resumed a day after the blast. Footage showed that half of a section of the roadway had blown away from the bridge, while the other half was still attached.

Russia captured Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the 19km bridge connecting the region to its transportation network was opened with much fanfare by Putin four years later.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said divers would begin investigating damage to the Crimean bridge on Sunday, with a more detailed survey above the waterline expected to be completed by the end of the day, domestic news agencies reported.

The Russian Ministry of Transport said freight trains and long-distance trains crossed the bridge on Sunday as scheduled. Restricted road traffic resumed around 10 a.m. on Saturday after the blast.

“The situation is manageable – it is unpleasant, but not fatal,” Russian governor of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov told reporters. “Of course there are emotions triggered and there is a healthy desire to get revenge.”

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