Parts of Europe’s longest bridge collapsed in the early Saturday morning blast, according to images and video from the scene.
The exact cause of the explosion is not clear. Russian officials said the fuel truck exploded, but two spans of the road crossing toward Crimea collapsed.
A subsequent fire engulfed a train of fuel trucks on a separate section of the bridge.
Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered a “government commission” to conduct an “emergency” inspection of the Kerch Bridge in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported.
According to TASS, the heads of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry and Transport Ministry are now at the scene.
The Russian-appointed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, confirmed that “two spans of roadbeds in the area [of the bridge] From Krasnodar to Kerch, collapsed after a major explosion.
Aksenov said that “at the same time the fuel tanks caught fire. Now two locomotives are coming” to remove the burning train, he said. Videos and images from the bridge show several charred rail fuel trucks.
“As soon as the fire is extinguished, it will be possible to assess the extent of damage to bridges and piers and talk about the time to restore traffic,” Aksenov said.
Images of the Kerch bridge posted on social media showed part of the vehicle roadway and the railway bridge under water. Flames are seen burning from the train cars above. It is not yet clear whether there were any casualties.
The tanker was located on the 19-kilometer (11 mile) long bridge – strategically important because it connects Russia’s Krasnodar region to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, on which sit major Ukrainian ports, including Mariupol. For Russia, the The bridge is the symbol Physical “reunification” of Crimea with the Russian mainland. Many of Crimea’s needs – such as fuel and supplies – are carried over the bridge, and it is regularly used to supply arms and fuel to the Russian military.
No further details on the commission’s timing or scope have been released. The decision was taken after receiving a report from Putin [Russian Prime Minister] Mikhail Mishustin, [Russian Deputy Prime Minister] Marat Khusnulin, head of the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of Transport and the head of the law enforcement agency regarding the emergency on the Crimean bridge,” TASS reported, citing Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Russian state media RIA Novosti quoted Peskov as saying that “there are still no estimates for the timing of the restoration of the Crimean bridge.”
“Firefighting is underway,” Oleg Kryunchkov, an adviser to the head of the Russian administration in occupied Crimea, said in a Telegram post, adding that the bridge’s “shipping arches were not damaged.”
An official in Crimea blamed “Ukrainian saboteurs” for the explosion on the Kerch bridge in a post on Telegram.
“Ukrainian saboteurs somehow managed to get their bloody claws on the Crimean bridge. And now they have something to be proud of, in their 23 years of economic activity, they have not created anything of interest in Crimea. But they managed to damage the roadbed of the Russian bridge,” said Vladimir Konstantinov, Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea.
“This is the whole essence of the Kyiv regime and the Ukrainian state … Of course, the causes of the accident will be investigated and the damage will be quickly repaired,” he added.
CNN could not independently verify Konstantinov’s claims.
Ukrainian officials responded to the explosion on Saturday without directly admitting that Ukraine was responsible for the blast.
“Air Defense of the Russian Federation, are you sleeping?” The Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook that there is a video showing a part of the bridge road completely destroyed.
“Russian illegal construction is starting to collapse and catch fire. The reason is simple: if you make something explosive, sooner or later, it will explode. And this is just the beginning,” David Arkhamia, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s party in parliament and a member of Kiev’s negotiating team with Russia, said in a Telegram statement about the incident.
In an interview in August, a senior Ukrainian military commander said the Kerch bridge was a legitimate target.
“This is a necessary measure to deprive them (Russia) of the opportunity to provide reserves and reinforce their forces from Russian territory,” Major General Dmytro Marchenko said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.
Also on Thursday, Oleksiy Hromov, a senior officer of the General Staff, said that since September 21, Ukrainian forces had managed to advance 55 kilometers to the northeast, “establishing control over 93 settlements.” [and] Take over an area of over 2,400 square kilometers.”
Hromov appeared to be referring to gains in the Kharkiv region that were made before September 21 but confirmed only later.
“In the direction of Kherson, the enemy is trying to counterattack at the expense of reserves to stop the advance of our troops and regain the lost ground. Action has been taken on 29 settlements from October 1 [our] Control,” he said.
Hromov said that Russia has increased its use of Iranian-made drones.
“Since September 30, the enemy used 46 “Shahid 136″ kamikaze drones to attack military facilities, civilian infrastructure and army positions, of which 24 drones were destroyed.”
In total, Russia has used 86 “Shaheed 136” drones, Hromov said.
Meanwhile, a freight train in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region was hit by a “powerful explosion” on Saturday morning, an adviser to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andrushenko said.
“Not only Crimea. Not just fuel tanks. Ilovaisk also has a freight train. Locals report heavy blasts and subsequent explosions during the night. Traders now have a big problem with supply on both sides,” Andrushenko said.
Pro-Russian authorities in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk confirmed the freight train incident, releasing a video showing the aftermath of the fire at a local train station on Saturday.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday Caution expressed About the dangers posed by Putin’s nuclear threats as his forces face military setbacks in Ukraine.
“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have (a) direct threat of nuclear weapons if things continue on the path they’re on,” Biden warned during remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in New York on Thursday evening.
He added: “I don’t think that tactical nuclear weapons will easily (use) capabilities and not end with Armageddon.
“I’m trying to figure out what Putin’s off ramp is?” Biden said during the event, “Where does he find his way? Where does he find himself in a position where he has lost not only face but significant power in Russia?
The Kerch bridge It is capable of handling 40,000 cars a day and moving 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year, state news agency RIA Novosti reported when the bridge opened in 2018.
Masked Russian special forces without unit insignia seized Crimea in February 2014 in Operation Lightning. Initially, Russia denied that its forces carried out the mission. Later, it was accepted that the so-called “little green men” were really Russian units. The West quickly responded with crippling economic sanctions.
After the bridge was opened, the United States outlawed its construction.
“Russia’s construction of the bridge is a reminder of Russia’s continued willingness to violate international law,” according to a US State Department statement at the time.
The bridge not only represents Russia’s illegal annexation and attempt to consolidate its occupation of Crimea, but also impedes navigation by limiting the size of ships that can travel through the Kerch Strait, which is Ukraine’s only access to territorial waters in the sea. Azov.”
Ukrainian officials echoed those sentiments after the explosion.
“Crimea, bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything captured by Russia must be deported,” Mykhailo Podoliak, who is an adviser to the Ukrainian leader.