Ukraine war: Two dead after ’emergency’ at Crimea bridge

  • By Christy Cooney
  • BBC News

image caption,

File photo of a bridge connecting mainland Russia with occupied Crimea

Russian officials say two people have died in a so-called “emergency” on a bridge linking the occupied Crimean peninsula with Russia.

The incident has not been called an attack, but unconfirmed reports say explosions were heard in the early hours of Monday.

The Kerch bridge opened in 2018 and enables road and rail travel between Russia and Crimea — Ukrainian territory held by Moscow’s forces since 2014.

The bridge – a vital supply route – was fully reopened in February.

to write telegramSergei Aksyonov, the head of the Russian administration in Crimea, said: “Transport on the Crimean bridge was stopped. There was an emergency in the 145th support area. [Russia side of the bridge].

“Measures are being taken to restore the situation. Residents and guests of the peninsula are requested to avoid traveling via the Crimean Bridge and for safety reasons, choose an alternative land route through the new areas.”

This is how Russia refers to the Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Luhansk and Donetsk that it occupied last year and claims to have annexed.

Vyacheslav Kladkov, governor of the Western Russian region of Belgorod, said later His own Telegram report A teenager’s two parents died in the incident – which he simply labeled an “emergency”.

BBC Russian reports that a ferry crossing parallel to the bridge has been closed, while Russian state media agency TASS has quoted a local train director as saying train traffic could be affected.

Even now, the exact cause of last October’s outbreak remains unclear. Footage from the time showed a large fireball erupting as several cars and lorries crossed the bridge.

In the months before the incident, Ukrainian officials had repeatedly suggested that the bridge would be targeted, but in the days that followed, Kiev refused to take responsibility.

Oleksiy Danilov, Chairman of the National Defense and Security Council of Ukraine. Posted a video The bridge is lit up with a clip of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday Mr. President.” The blast happened a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday.

The latest incident comes amid a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces aimed at retaking parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.

Monday marks the expiration of a deal brokered by the UN last year that has allowed grain to leave Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters, and the deal was reached amid fears the war could lead to global food shortages, but Russia has so far refused to agree to an extension.

After Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, President Vladimir Putin ordered the construction of the Kerch Bridge connecting mainland Russia and the peninsula.

But it is hated in Kiev as much as it is loved in Moscow. When part of the bridge blew up last October, Ukraine’s post office issued commemorative stamps to mark the event. It was seen on posters and memes, reveling in its destruction.

But, it’s more than code. The rail link is vital for supplying Crimea with food, fuel and weapons. In fact, it was the main reliable route to the peninsula until the so-called “land bridge” through occupied southern Ukraine.

As Ukraine seeks to sever the land bridge with its counter-offensive, keeping the Kerch bridge operational is key to preventing a blockade of Russian forces in Crimea and Kherson.

We are far from that moment, but it is worth noting that whatever this “emergency” caused at the Kerch bridge, the excitement surrounding it reiterates its importance both symbolically and practically for both sides.

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