Under Russia’s strict defense, the Crimea bridge exploded again

The Crimean Bridge, which had just been fully reopened to traffic in May this year, exploded again early this morning local time. As of 17:00 Beijing time, the explosion has killed two Russian residents and injured a child. The casualties are from the same family. At present, Russian President Vladimir Putin has received a report of the explosion and ordered an investigation, and Deputy Prime Minister Kusnurin has flown to the scene. Later today, Putin will hold a meeting on the event.

According to the latest news released by the Russian Investigative Committee, the explosion was the result of an attack by Ukrainian special forces using two unmanned boats. The day before, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that it had captured two Ukrainian unmanned boats in the Crimean waters.

Judging from the on-site video released by local media, the explosion seems to be less serious than the attack on the Crimea Bridge, which burned an area of 750 square meters in October last year. At present, the bridge and railway have partially resumed operation.

However, since the last attack, the Russian side has greatly strengthened the security and defense of the bridge. On July 10, the Russian Ministry of Defense just announced that it had thwarted a Ukrainian missile attack on the Crimea Bridge. Now, there is another explosion on the heavily protected Crimean bridge. Is this a harbinger of larger attacks in the future?

A “not serious” attack?

According to the information released by Crimea’s local TV station “Crimea 24”, at around 4:20 a.m. local time, Aksenov, the head of the Crimean administrative authority, first released the message of Crimea on social media platforms. News of the traffic disruption on the Mia Bridge due to an “emergency”. The live video footage released by the local TV station later showed that the vehicles that were planning to pass the bridge were already congested at the upper bridge entrance. Looking from a distance, it looked like a long “light strip”. But other than that, there was no noticeable smoke or fire on the bridge.

Some Russian online media claimed that just about an hour before the official release of the information, local residents heard two explosions, one at 3:00 a.m. and the other 20 minutes later. Local television reported that around 6 a.m., Russian investigators went onto the bridge to begin their investigation. A video was later confirmed: half of the road on the bridge broke and collapsed.

At the same time, Belgorod Governor Gladkov was the first to disclose casualty figures: a couple from the region were killed in the explosion, and their teenage daughter suffered a head injury of “moderate severity” that had already been reported. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in southern Russia. She is now conscious and breathing on her own.

The Russian Investigative Committee said Ukrainian special forces “committed the crime” and would further identify specific participants. Other official agencies were eager to issue “anmin notices”. Local authorities say Crimea is well stocked with supplies, so holidaymakers from the Russian mainland should not be nervous. The Russian Ministry of Transport said the main structure of the bridge was not damaged, only the road surface was damaged. Konstantinov, chairman of the Crimean State Council, said that he “believes that the consequences of the terrorist attack will soon be eliminated.”

Judging from the recovery of traffic, the attack on the Crimea Bridge seems to be less serious than the explosion in October last year. According to official information, in the explosion on October 8, 2022, two sections of the bridge collapsed directly. 14 hours after the explosion, the first train passed the bridge along the “least damaged rail”.

But this time, at around 9 a.m. local time on the 17th, less than 6 hours after the explosion, the first train had already passed the bridge. Coupled with the fact that the explosion occurred in the early hours of the morning, only 11 trains are currently known to be delayed by the incident. However, the impact of the explosion on road transportation is still difficult to estimate. The staff of the Russian Ministry of Transport are still investigating and evaluating, and local authorities have asked relevant vehicles to leave Crimea by ferry or detour.

The Crimea Bridge is one of the two major traffic routes currently connecting the Crimea Peninsula to the mainland. The other is the Chungar Bridge, which connects Crimea and the Russian-occupied Kherson region, but is closer to the war zone and is also Just been attacked. Therefore, the 19-kilometer-long Crimea Bridge across the Kerch Strait, which was completed and opened to traffic in 2018, is in fact the most important irreplaceable passage on the peninsula.

After the Russian army launched a “special military operation” against Ukraine in 2022, especially after the Ukrainian army launched a “big counterattack” in July, the Crimea Bridge became the focus of long-range attacks and sabotage operations by the Ukrainian army. On October 8, a severe explosion occurred on the bridge, killing four people. In June this year, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Mariar recounted the “victories” of the Ukrainian army in the 500 days since the start of the war. Last year’s bridge explosion was impressively listed.

TASS said that after the last explosion, Russia used 1,200 tons of steel structures for repairs. After several twists and turns, the road and railway passages on the bridge were not fully reopened to traffic until May 5 this year. Because the task was successfully completed before the Victory Day on May 9, this day was also called a “symbolic” and “important day” by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Kusnurin.

However, after the full resumption of traffic, the security situation of the Crimean Bridge remains tense. On May 24 this year, the bridge was witnessed by local people emitting smoke. Authorities later said the bridge was temporarily closed for several hours because a “drill was being conducted”.

Since the last attack, the Crimean authorities and the Russian army have adopted a strict inspection system for the passage of the bridge. In early July, the transportation department of the Crimean administrative authority stated that due to the increase in vacationers crossing the bridge and the heavy inspection tasks, the bridge entrance of the Crimea Bridge was once congested for more than 7 kilometers, and people had to wait for 5 hours for their turn to be inspected. The local emergency department also set up water supply points and temporary toilets on congested roads for this purpose. However, all this failed to prevent the bridge from being damaged by another explosion.

More “sophisticated” attacks coming?

Recently, despite the unfavorable front-line counter-offensive, the Ukrainian army’s long-range attacks on the Crimea region have still intensified. According to the information disclosed by the head of the Russian-controlled Sevastopol administration, Razvozayev, this “long-term and large-scale” attack has caused the offensive and defensive sides to launch a three-dimensional battle around the Crimea Peninsula. .

On July 16 alone, the local Russian army in Crimea shot down seven invading Ukrainian drones, two of which were destroyed by the air defense system when they were “far away from the coast”, and the remaining five were destroyed by electronic weapons. Fighting interference, crashed before reaching the target. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the Russian army also captured two Ukrainian unmanned boats in nearby waters that day.

Analysts believe that in fact there is no longer a “red line” for Western military aid to Ukraine. White House National Security Advisor Sullivan also officially confirmed on July 16 that the Biden administration agreed with European allies to train Ukrainian F-16 fighter pilots. In this context, the Ukrainian army is confident that it will acquire more British-made and even American-made long-range attack drones within this year. However, considering that the United States and NATO still hope to prevent these Western weapons from being directly used to attack “Russia mainland”, after the Ukrainian army obtains drones, it may take the Crimea Peninsula as a key target.

An example is that on June 22, shortly after the Ukrainian army received the “Shadow of Storm” missile aided by the UK, it used this type of missile to attack the Chungal Bridge connecting Crimea and the Kherson region. It was nighttime and there were no casualties, but the bridge was closed for about 20 days for repairs.

Considering that the Ukrainian army’s “big counterattack” has not achieved significant results in this round, and the Russian army has consolidated the defense of the current contact line between the two sides, even if the Ukrainian army conducts more “sophisticated” long-distance attacks on Crimea, one During this period, it is also difficult to advance or even recover the peninsula on the ground. However, these blows will have a major impact on the local social economy in Crimea.

According to Konstantinov, chairman of the State Council of the Russian-controlled Crimean authorities, on July 9, the Crimean authorities will claim more than 11 billion U.S. dollars for measures such as cutting off the water supply from the Ukrainian side. An investigation will also be launched. Among them, only the last time the Crimea Bridge was bombed, the loss reached “billions of rubles”.

In addition, if the Ukrainian army uses advanced long-range weapons aided by the West to attack Crimea, it can free up more “Soviet weapons stocks” to attack Russia’s inland areas. In May of this year, the Ukrainian military drone that rushed thousands of miles to the Red Square in Moscow was the Tu-141 made by the former Soviet Union. These Soviet-made weapons were backward in performance and poor in maintenance, causing limited actual damage to Russia, but they were effective psychological warfare tools.

Kortunov, the former director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, has repeatedly warned that as the war enters the second year, there may be more and more long-distance attacks and “terrorist attacks” in Russia. On July 7, Ustinov, the special envoy of the Russian President to the Southern Federal District, expressed the same view.

“In southern Russia, drone strikes are becoming more visible and purposeful, becoming a dangerous factor posing a threat to the safety of the population,” Ustinov told a conference on security affairs. Facilities, energy infrastructure, and fuel depots are becoming priority targets for drone strikes and other sabotage operations.

The Crimea peninsula was once a key battlefield where the Russian Empire competed with the Ottomans, Britain and France for control of the Black Sea, and it changed hands several times in history. During Soviet times, Crimea was part of Russia until it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet leader Khrushchev in 1954. Before the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was a resort and resort loved by the Moscow elite.

During the Crimean crisis in 2014, when Russia wrested control of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Russia claimed that 97% of Crimeans voted to join Russia in a referendum. In the following eight years, Ukraine has been seeking to negotiate the Crimea issue through diplomatic means until the Russian army launched a “special military operation” in 2022.

Today, Zelensky’s government is increasingly convinced that retaking Crimea by force is the only acceptable option for Ukraine. However, most Western military analysts believe that this goal is very far away, and it will be difficult to achieve it before the Russia-Ukraine ceasefire.

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