A large explosion caused fires and substantial damage to the bridge connecting Crimea and Russia on Saturday. At least three people have been confirmed dead.
The Kerch bridge partially collapsed and fire broke out as seven fuel tanks on a train crossing the bridge were ignited. Two of the three confirmed victims were pulled out of the water below the bridge.
Russian officials have reported that the explosion erupted from a truck crossing the bridge. The three known victims appear to have been passengers in a car that was traveling beside the truck.
Ukrainian media sources have also confirmed the explosion occurred at around 6 a.m. local time on Saturday morning. All travel on the bridge was immediately suspended.
Early video and photo images of the bridge posted to social media after the attack show a large part of the bridge had collapsed into the water below. Raging fires and columns of black smoke are also evident.
Russian officials have already reported that the truck that exploded belonged to a resident of Krasnodar in southern Russia. No other information regarding the owner’s identity or where the truck came from has been reported.
The bridge explosion occurred just hours after Russia sent artillery shells into the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. That attack destroyed several large buildings, according to Ukrainian media reports.
The Kerch Bridge was built by Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014 to connect the Russian mainland to the peninsula. It has been open since 2018.
The bridge has served as a major piece of infrastructure to the Russian military, which uses the bridge to supply forces operating in Ukraine’s Kherson region and around the major seaport of Sevastopol.
Доброго ранку, Україно! 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/UQMI6LheSR
— Oleksiy Danilov (@OleksiyDanilov) October 8, 2022
The explosion occurred one day after the 70th birthday of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. Ukraine National Security and Defense Council Chair Olesksiy Danilov posted a picture of the burning bridge on social media and included a video of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova issued a press statement describing the explosion as an attack on civilian infrastructure of a “terrorist nature.”
The Kerch bridge has been a reported target of Ukrainian military officials since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February. In addition to supporting a key Russian supply line, it is seen in Ukraine as a painful symbol of Russia’s brazen annexation of the Crimean peninsula eight years ago.