What the explosions on the Crimean bridge mean for the war

Russia calls it an “act of terrorism”, Ukraine is reluctant. An incident occurred on the bridge to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea early Monday morning.

According to media reports, the bridge was attacked and damaged by a surface drone. According to the Ukrainian news agency RBC-Ukraine, explosions are said to have occurred.

Two adults died in the attack and one teenager was injured. Photos and videos on social networks also showed significant damage to the roadway. Traffic was stopped.

Officially, Kiev has not claimed responsibility for an attack. However, Ukraine has repeatedly announced that it intends to liberate all areas occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

Crimean Bridge Attack: “Ukrainian Participation Likely”

“Ukraine does not take direct responsibility for this, but says that Ukrainian participation is quite possible and probable,” Alexander Libman told FOCUS online. He is Professor of Political Science with a focus on Eastern Europe and Russia at Freie Universität Berlin. As Libman explains, from a Ukrainian perspective, an attack would have double meaning.

“First, the incident destabilizes Russian logistics in Crimea,” he says. The bridge serves as a supply route for the Russian army, but also for the civilian facilities in Crimea.

In addition, there is the rather sluggish Ukrainian counter-offensive. Explosions controlled by Kiev would have “a symbolic effect – as a sign of the fragility of Russian control over the Black Sea Peninsula”.

The AFP news agency, citing SBU circles, also reports that Ukraine is said to be responsible for the bridge explosion. Accordingly, the attack was a “special operation” by the Ukrainian secret service SBU and the Navy.

Ukraine blames Russia

The secret service did not initially confirm its own involvement. Instead, he published a quirky poem on Telegram. “Nightingale, dear brother, the bridge has ‘fallen asleep’ again. Once twice! PS: The music is folksy. The text – SBU”, could be read there.

The Ukrainian military meanwhile described the bridge attack as a provocation by Moscow. A spokeswoman for the southern command, Natalia Humeniuk, said on Rada station that the procedure was typical.

In Libman’s eyes, arguments for a Russian maneuver are much more difficult to find. “Symbolically, the explosions are anything but good for the Russian regime,” he says.

Gerhard Mangott from the University of Innsbruck agrees. The political scientist has specialized in international relations and security research in the post-Soviet space.

Russia has no interest in damaging the bridge

“Russia has no interest in damaging the bridge,” he says in an interview with FOCUS online. Like Libman, Mangott points out that it is “an important supply route for Russian troops in Crimea and southern Ukraine.”

The bridge connecting Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and mainland Russia was attacked and damaged last autumn. At the time, Putin threatened massive rocket attacks on Ukraine in response.

For months afterwards, Russia increasingly attacked cities and infrastructure objects in the neighboring country. The Russian military specifically targeted Ukrainian energy objects in the autumn and winter.

What are the consequences of the “emergency”, as Russia initially called the attack on the bridge, this time? “That depends on the extent of the damage, which we don’t know exactly yet and only know from Russian information,” says Mangott. If a stretch of road between two bridge pillars collapses, the expert estimates that it will take several weeks for the damage to be repaired.

What are the consequences of the bridge accident for the war?

“I can only speculate how exactly the explosion will affect further warfare,” says Libmann. However, the political scientist can imagine “that Russia is now trying to intensify the attacks on Ukrainian targets”.

In any case, there is no end in sight to the war Russia instigated in violation of international law. The conflict has been raging in Ukraine for almost 17 months. The country has announced that it will liberate all occupied territories as part of a counter-offensive.

Jean Harris

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