In a major blow to Russia, at least one explosion in 2014 severely damaged the Kerch bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with the Russian Federation.
Images and video from the scene showed parts of Europe’s longest bridge collapsing in the early hours of Saturday.
The exact cause of the explosion is not clear. Russian officials said a fuel truck had exploded, but two sections of the road junction leading to Crimea appeared to have collapsed. A train of fuel trucks on a separate section of the bridge caught fire in succession.
Pictures of the Kerch bridge posted on social media showed a section of the carriageway and the railway bridge falling into the water below. Flames could be seen shooting from the train carriages above.
Three people died: Russia’s investigative team said initial reports indicated three people were killed in the blast.
Why is the bridge important? The bridge crosses the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, where major Ukrainian ports, including Mariupol, are located. For Russia, the bridge represents the “reunification” of Crimea’s body with Russian territory. The bridge transports most of Crimea’s needs, such as fuel and supplies, and is regularly used to deliver weapons and fuel to Russian forces.
Consequences: Major transport links, including buses and trains, between mainland Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula have been suspended following the explosion at the Kerch bridge. Weather conditions in the Kerch Strait have hampered Russia’s plans to use ferries to reach Crimea from Krasnodar, Russian state media reported.
What did Ukraine say? Ukrainian officials began responding to the fire without directly admitting that Ukraine was responsible for the explosion. In response, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Navy posted on Facebook: “Air defense of the Russian Federation, are you sleeping?”, along with a video of a section of the bridge road being completely destroyed.
In a short post on its official Twitter account, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reacted to the blast: “The guided missile cruiser Moskva and the Kerch Bridge, two notorious symbols of Russian power in Ukrainian Crimea, have been sunk. What’s next in line, Russians?
What is Russia’s response? Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered a “state commission” to investigate the “emergency condition” of the Kerch bridge in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported, with the heads of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Russia’s Transport Ministry now in place. The place where the incident took place.
Russian officials say the explosion was caused by a truck detonating on a highway bridge.
Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, said the group “has opened a criminal case on the Crimean Bridge incident. According to preliminary information, a truck exploded in the car area of the Crimean Bridge from the Taman Peninsula this morning.” [los carriles hacia el oeste del puente]It ignited seven fuel tanks of the train as it traveled towards the Crimean Peninsula”.
“As a result, two car lanes of the bridge partially collapsed.”
The team also expanded on its earlier report that a truck had exploded on the bridge.
According to the Russian Investigative Committee, the owner of the truck is a resident of the Krasnodar Territory and investigative proceedings have been initiated at his place of residence. The team further said that the circulation route of the vehicle and its documents are being examined.
CNN could not verify the Russian explanation for the explosion.