A general view shows a road-and-rail bridge, which is constructed to connect the Russian mainland with the Crimean peninsula, at sunrise in the Kerch Strait, Crimea November 26, 2018.
REUTERS | Pavel Rebrov
Russian authorities reported on Saturday that a large blaze erupted on the only bridge linking mainland Russia to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Russian state-backed media cited the national anti-terrorism committee as saying that a truck exploded on the road traffic side of the Kerch bridge at 6:07 a.m. local time. The blaze reportedly set fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea, prompting the road traffic side of the bridge to partially collapse.
The Kerch bridge is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prestige projects. It was built on his orders shortly after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014 to support Moscow’s claims to the territory.
A symbol of hate to Ukrainians, the 19-kilometer (12-mile) crossing is a pair of road and rail bridges spanning the Kerch Strait that Russia uses to move military equipment into Ukraine.
Images and videos shared on social media appeared to show the scale of the fire and damage. CNBC was not able to independently verify the authenticity of these reports and images.
The Kremlin’s months-long invasion of Ukraine has incurred a string of humiliating setbacks in recent weeks, and the blaze on the Kerch bridge comes one day after Putin’s 70th birthday.
‘Crimea, the bridge, the beginning’
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that the damage was “the beginning,” although stopped short of claiming Kyiv was responsible.
“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled,” Podolyak said via Twitter.
The official Twitter account of the Ukrainian government, meanwhile, appeared to respond to the incident by saying, “sick burn.”
People pose for photographs in front of a picture of a postage stamp showing an artists impression of the Kerch bridge on fire on Oct. 8, 2022 in central Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ed Ram | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Russian media reported that traffic had been suspended due to the incident and emergency and road service personnel were working at the site to contain the blaze.
“According to preliminary information, a fuel storage tank is on fire … Navigable arches were not damaged. It is too early to speak about causes and consequences. Work to extinguish the blaze is underway,” Oleg Kryuchko, an aide to the Russian occupation head of Crimea said via Telegram, according to TASS news agency.
The incident comes hours after Russia concentrated its latest barrage of attacks on areas of Ukraine it illegally annexed.
In what the West described as sham referendums, Putin declared “four new regions of Russia” late last month as Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
Kyiv has said it will not stop fighting until it has reclaimed every last inch of land lost to Russia.
Meanwhile, Moscow has claimed it has “the right” to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory and citizens if it feels there is an existential threat, or even if it’s attacked by conventional weapons.
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