Russian divers inspect the damage to the bombed Crimea bridge

  • Russia says rail traffic across the bridge will continue as planned
  • The bridge across the Kerch Strait was vital for supplying Russian troops
  • The imposing structure is a symbol of Russia’s annexation of Crimea
  • The explosion comes amid defeats on the battlefield for Russia
  • Russian missile attack kills 12 in southeastern Ukraine

KYIV, Oct 9 (Reuters) – Russian divers were on Sunday to survey the damage caused by a powerful blast on a road and rail bridge leading to Crimea, a symbol of Moscow’s seizure of the peninsula and a key supply route for its forces. Fighting in southern Ukraine.

Saturday’s explosion on a bridge over the Kerch Strait prompted cheers from Ukrainian officials, but no claim of responsibility. Russia did not immediately claim responsibility for the blast, which blew away half of the bridge’s roadway, with the other half still attached.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Kuznulin said divers would begin work in the morning and a detailed survey above the waterline was expected to be completed by the end of the day, local news agencies reported.

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“The situation is manageable – it is unpleasant, but not dangerous,” Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian governor of Crimea, told reporters. “Of course, emotions are stirred up and there’s a healthy desire for revenge.”

Russia’s Transport Ministry said freight trains and long-distance passenger trains across the Crimea Bridge were running on schedule on Sunday. Limited road traffic resumed on Saturday, 10 hours after the blast.

Aksionov said the peninsula has fuel for a month and food for more than two months. Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces in southern Ukraine could already be “fully supplied” by land and sea routes.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and a 19-km (12-mile) bridge linking the region to its transport network was opened to great fanfare by President Vladimir Putin four years later.

Kiev is demanding that Russian forces leave the Black Sea peninsula, as well as Ukrainian territory they seized in an invasion launched by Putin in February.

It is not yet clear whether Saturday’s bombing was a planned attack, but the damage to such a high-profile structure comes amid a string of battlefield defeats for Russia and could further overshadow Kremlin assurances that the conflict was planned.

Elsewhere, shelling in Ukraine’s southeastern city of Zaporizhia early Sunday killed at least 12 people and hospitalized 49 people, including six children, Ukrainian officials said.

Oleksandr Starukh, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, said 12 Russian missile strikes partially destroyed a nine-story building, leveled five residential buildings, and damaged many others.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Zaporizhia, about 52 km (30 miles) from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has come under frequent shelling in recent weeks.

main artery

The bridge over the Kerch Strait is a vital artery for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, where they control much of the Kherson region and large parts of the Zaporizhia region, and to the port of Sevastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea naval base.

Three people were killed in the blast early Saturday, Russian officials said. At the upper level of the bridge, seven fuel tanker wagons of a 59-wagon train bound for the peninsula caught fire.

Russia’s Central Anti-Terrorism Agency said on Saturday that a cargo truck had exploded on the bridge’s road. It said two spans of the road bridge had partially collapsed, but the arch spanning the shipping channel between the Black Sea and the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov was undamaged.

Kirill Stremousov, Russia’s established deputy administrator of the Kherson region, said in a social media post that the bombing “will not greatly affect military supplies” and that there will be problems with logistics to Crimea.

The blast comes a day after Putin’s 70th birthday and coincides with the appointment of Russia’s third senior military official in a week. Moscow appointed Air Force General Sergei Surovikhin to take charge of the invasion attempt.

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(Reporting by Max Hunter, Jonathan Lande and Reuters Bureau Writing by Kevin Liffey, Alistair Bell and Clarence Fernandez Writing by William Mallard, Raisa Kasolowski and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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