Traffic Stoppage on Vital Russian Bridge in Crimea Suggests Attack by Ukraine

Ukraine appeared to have attacked the Kerch Strait Bridge linking the occupied Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia early Monday, forcing its closure.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-installed head of Crimea, said that all road and rail traffic had been stopped on the bridge because of an unspecified “emergency,” but Russian military bloggers reported that Ukraine had attacked the landmark crossing.

A father and mother from the Belgorod region were killed in the incident, and their daughter was injured, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, was quoted as saying by Zvezda News, the television channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense. There was damage to the roadway leading from Crimea, but the entire structure is still being inspected, the Russian Ministry of Transport said in a brief statement on its Telegram channel.

The incident comes a little more than nine months after an Oct. 8 attack on the bridge, when an explosives-laden truck erupted, forcing the closure of one lane of traffic and damaging the railroad tracks. Three people died in that attack.

The 12-mile bridge, completed in 2018 and considered an engineering feat, was fully reopened to vehicular traffic in February. Railroad traffic resumed normally in May.

The bridge is a major route used to supply Russian troops in Ukraine, as well as the Black Sea fleet, headquartered in the storied Crimean port of Sevastopol. Disrupting traffic on the bridge forces Russia to supply its troops in Crimea and southern Ukraine via land routes across southern Ukraine that can be exposed to Ukrainian shelling.

The closure also comes during the height of the summer travel season, when Crimea is a popular destination for Russian travelers looking for a bargain beach destination. Crimean officials asked tourists to stay in their hotels due the situation. Videos on social media showed traffic backing up on the roads leading to the bridge.

Mr. Aksyonov, writing on his Telegram channel about the situation, asked both residents and guests to avoid using the bridge and to use the “alternative overland route through the new regions,” meaning the areas of southern Ukraine occupied by Russia during its invasion. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.

Railroad traffic should resume by 9 a.m. on Monday, Mr. Aksyonov said.

He and other officials urged people in Crimea not to panic, with some officials saying that there was enough food and fuel stored on the peninsula to supply the civilian population while the bridge was closed.

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.


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