Putin: Crimea Bridge Bombing an ‘Intentional Act of Terrorism’ by Ukraine

CRIMEA - OCTOBER 08: A screen grab from a surveillance footage shows flames and smoke risi
Security Camera/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Russian leader Vladimir Putin declared the bombing of the Kerch Strait bridge, which connects Russia to occupied Crimea, “an act of terrorism aimed at destroying Russia’s civilian and critical infrastructure” at a Russian Security Council meeting on Monday, promising a “massive strike” on Ukraine in response.

Putin invaded and colonized the Crimean peninsula with little response from the West in 2014, declaring its residents Russian citizens. Four years later, Russia debuted a bridge connecting Crimea to Russia via the Kerch Strait, effectively closing off the critical Ukrainian port city of Mariupol from the Black Sea. The Kerch Strait Bridge, at 12 miles long, is the longest bridge in Europe.

Ukrainian officials have long accused Russia of deliberately building the bridge, which now separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, too low so that large cargo ships could not pass through.

The Kerch Strait bridge awoke in flames on Saturday morning, allegedly the result of a truck armed with explosives detonating, which in turn set fuel tanks crossing on a train over the bridge on fire. Russian authorities reported two deaths of individuals in nearby cars when the truck exploded. The Ukrainian government has not taken responsibility for the bombing but has openly celebrated it. The official Twitter accounts of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense responded to tbe bombing with, “what’s next?”

“The forensic and other expert data, as well as operational information, show that the October 8 explosion was an act of terrorism aimed at destroying Russia’s civilian and critical infrastructure,” Putin declared at his Security Council meeting on Monday. The Russian government built the bridge and claims the territory on both sides of it, so it considers the bombing an attack within Russia, outside of the scope of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“It is also clear that the Ukrainian special services were the organisers and perpetrators of the attack. The Kiev [sic] regime has long been using terrorist methods, including murders of public figures, journalists and scientists, both in Ukraine and in Russia,” Putin continued, according to an English-language translation of his remarks published by the Kremlin. “And terrorist attacks on towns in Donbass, which have been going on for more than eight years.”

The declaration was allegedly the result of an “investigation” into the bombing of the bridge. The Kremlin announced the creation of a government commission to identify and punish the culprits on Saturday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Monday that “other countries,” without naming any, were also involved in investigating the bridge bombing.

“You know that if there is a need for international cooperation, contacts are being established with the relevant nations. But how it will be exactly – I can’t tell you, this is the prerogative of the investigative committee,” Peskov offered.

The Russian news agency Tass reported that Russia had traced the truck that exploded on the bridge back to Bulgaria, claiming that it traveled from there to Georgia, Armenia, and drove onto the bridge from Russia towards Crimea.

Explosion causes fire at the Kerch bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea on October 08, 2022. A fire broke out early Saturday morning on the Kerch Bridge — preceded by an explosion — causing suspension of traffic and bringing bus and train services to a halt. (Vera Katkova/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Putin went on to accuse Ukraine of “nuclear terrorism” for alleged attacks on its own Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, currently under Russian control, and of bombing the Nordstream natural gas pipelines that connect Russia to Europe. The Nordstream pipelines, a source of critical revenue for Russia, sprung multiple “leaks” abruptly last month; investigations by local governments indicated that explosives detonated underwater were the likely cause, but have yet to identify a verifiable culprit.

“It is well known that Russian representatives are not allowed to take part in the investigation into the causes of explosions at and the destruction of international gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea,” Putin said, “But we all know who ultimately benefits from this crime.”

“Thus, the Kiev regime, by its actions, has actually put itself on the same level as international terrorist groups, and with the most odious of those,” Putin concluded, announcing “a massive strike” within Ukraine “with long-range precision air, sea and land-based weapons against Ukrainian energy, military and communications facilities.”

“In the event of more attempts to stage terrorist attacks on our territory, Russia’s response will be harsh and commensurate with the threats posed to the Russian Federation. Nobody should have any doubts about that,” Putin warned.

Reports from Ukraine on Monday revealed an intense bombing campaign in and around Kyiv that damaged the German consulate in the city, in addition to appearing to hit other civilian areas. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the attacks largely consisted of “dozens” of Iranian-made missiles targeting energy infrastructure. Zelensky suggested that ongoing blackouts would be a problem for his country and urged locals in the capital not to leave bomb shelters on Monday.

In Crimea, the Russian government worked to ensure the public that the damage to the Kerch Strait bridge, in contrast, was minimal, publishing videos showing traffic across the bridge as recently after the attack as Saturday night and claiming the damage was “insignificant.”

Russia’s Minister of Transport of Crimea Nikolay Lukashenko claimed that, as of Monday, an expanded ferry service across the Kerch Strait had served 3,000 people.

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