A general view shows a road and rail bridge, which is being built 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 major fire had broken out on the only bridge connecting mainland Russia with the occupied Crimean peninsula.
Russian state-backed media quoted the National Anti-Terrorism Committee as saying a truck exploded on the road traffic side of the Kerch Bridge at 6:07 a.m. local time. The blaze is believed to have set seven oil tankers being transported by rail to Crimea on fire, causing 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 bolster Moscow’s claims to the territory.
A symbol of hatred towards Ukrainians, the 19-kilometre (12-mile) crossing is a pair of road and rail bridges spanning the Kerch Strait that Russia uses to transport military equipment to Ukraine.
Images and videos shared on social media seem to show the extent of the fire and the damage. CNBC has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of these reports and images.
The months-long Kremlin invasion of Ukraine has suffered a series of humiliating setbacks in recent weeks, and the burning of the Kerch Bridge comes a day after Putin’s 70th birthday.
‘Crimea, the bridge, the beginning’
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the damage was “just the beginning”, although he did not claim 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 Ukrainian government Twitter account, meanwhile, appeared to respond to the incident by saying “burn”.
People pose for photos in front of an image of a postage stamp showing an artist’s impression of the burning Kerch Bridge on October 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 that 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… The navigable arches have not been damaged. It is too early to speak of the causes and consequences. The work to extinguish the fire is ongoing,” said Oleg Kryuchko, an assistant to the Russian. said the head of the Crimea occupation via Telegram, according to the TASS news agency.
The incident comes hours after Russia focused its latest barrage of attacks on parts of Ukraine. illegally annexed.
In what the West has called sham referendums, Putin declared “four new regions of Russia” late last month as Moscow annexed the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Kyiv said it would not stop fighting until it reclaimed every inch of land lost to Russia.
Meanwhile, Moscow has claimed it has “the right” to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory and its citizens if it deems there is an existential threat, or even if attacked by conventional weapons.