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Ukrainian attack on Russia’s Crimean bridge also deals a blow to Putin

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The bridge between Russia and the Crimean peninsula was hit by a surprise attack on October 8. The bridge is damaged but still standing, although the attackers were also likely looking for psychological impact. Putin touted the bridge when it was built, and the attack on it comes after others in Crimea itself. Something is loading.

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At dawn on October 8, an explosion rocked the bridge between mainland Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

The explosion caused the collapse of a westbound span of the road bridge in the Kerch Strait and damaged an eastbound span and the adjacent rail bridge.

Ukraine had previously threatened the bridge but did not officially claim responsibility for it, although Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Kyiv and called it a “terrorist attack”.

Following the blast, road and rail travel across the bridge, which had seen an increase in civilian traffic following Ukrainian attacks on Russian bases in Crimea in August, was restricted, with heavier trucks crossing by boat instead.

Bridge over Troubled Waters The Crimean Bridge on October 9. Contributor/AFP

The Crimean Bridge is very important for the Russian war effort in Ukraine. It is the shortest land route between Russia and Crimea, and Russian forces used it to transport large amounts of equipment before and after the attack began in late February.

The peninsula is also home to important military infrastructure. It is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and numerous airports and military bases. Crimea is essential for operational and logistical support for Russia’s southern front in Ukraine, where its troops are experiencing setbacks in Kherson.

As a result of the attack, Russian supply lines through Crimea are ‘degraded’ and logistical problems on Russia’s southern front are likely ‘more acute’, the UK Ministry of Defense said this month -this.

To compensate for reduced traffic on the bridges, Russia must now transport troops, equipment and supplies across the Kerch Strait by boat or re-route them through the occupied provinces of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk in southern Ukraine, which takes much longer.

Vehicles wait to cross the Crimean Bridge on October 9. ANNA KARPENKO/AFP

A “large queue of cargo trucks” was seen on the Russian side of the strait and Russian forces are “likely increasing the flow of logistical supplies” via Mariupol to Donetsk, the Defense Ministry said in an update. day of October 17.

Limited damage to the railway portion of the bridge means traffic there could soon resume, the Institute for War Studies said in an assessment after the attack.

However, the bridge likely suffered structural damage and could be weaker, requiring reductions in weight and frequency of rail traffic, according to bridge safety and blast engineering experts Colin Caprani and Sam Rigby.

Russian officials have said little about the impact of the blast, but a government decree signed this month orders repairs to be completed by July 1, 2023, which may be an indication of the extent of the damage. .

Happy Birthday, Mr. President Ukrainians pose with a fake postage stamp depicting the burning Crimean Bridge on October 8. Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto

Although the military impact of the attack may be limited, it was not the only objective.

“The Crimean Bridge attack was partly meant to send a message,” Chris Miller, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told Insider.

The 12-mile bridge is the longest in Europe and has been hailed by Russian media as a major achievement.

“It’s a truly historic day,” Putin said during a ceremony for the opening of the road section of the bridge in 2018. Russian leaders had sought to build such a bridge for decades, Putin said, adding that “this miracle has happened”.

The attack also took place a day after Putin’s 70th birthday.

“Because Putin is personally associated with the takeover of Crimea, any attack on the peninsula is a blow to its accomplishment,” said Miller, who is also director for Eurasia at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Putin inspects the completed road section of the Crimean Bridge on March 14, 2018. Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via

“The Ukrainians want to delegitimize Russian control over Crimea and show that Russia’s hold on the peninsula is weaker than it appears”, and the Russians now clearly realize that their control over the occupied peninsula is under threat “in a way it hasn’t been since 2014,” Miller told Insider.

After the August attacks, Russians, many of them holidaymakers, rushed to leave Crimea, with reports of 38,000 cars leaving in a day.

This week, Putin declared “medium readiness” in territories adjacent to Ukraine, likely paving the way for more measures to support the war effort. But the Kremlin’s handling of the war has eroded domestic support, and the latest attack on Crimea could further tarnish Putin’s reputation.

“The war in general has significantly shaken Russians’ confidence in Putin’s abilities as president,” Miller said.

“Competence and stability were Putin’s way of justifying his repressive regime at home,” Miller added. “Now he is waging an incompetent war in a way that has destabilized Russia.”

Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master’s degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. You can contact him on LinkedIn.

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