“The shock is over.” How Russian elites and officials reacted to the blowing up of the Crimean bridge

The second strike on the Crimean bridge since the beginning of the war, which for a long time paralyzed normal communication with the peninsula, cut off the supply lines of the army and cut off the escape route for tens of thousands of tourists, did not provoke a violent reaction from representatives of the Russian elite. After the shocking events of spring and early summer – drone raids on Moscow and the rebellion of Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin – officials and big businessmen calmly accepted the blowing up of the bridge, which became a symbol of Vladimir Putin’s post-Crimean rule.

“Looks like the shock is over. We’ve gotten used to it over the months,” a representative of Russian business circles, who requested anonymity, told The Moscow Times.

The bridge across the Kerch Strait, which cost almost 300 billion rubles, was hit on the night of July 17 by two ground drones. As a result, a 600-tonne span was completely destroyed, and it will take at least until November to rebuild it. “I don’t see any particular buzz right now. This may sound cynical, but it has become routine. We have to work and that’s what we’re doing,” a government official who requested anonymity told The Moscow Times.

The authorities are much more afraid of failures at the front, where the Ukrainian army is conducting a counter-offensive, slowly squeezing out the blood of the Russian troops from the occupied territories. “I have a calm reaction [на подрыв Крымского моста]. I think it would be much worse if we lost Bakhmut,” a source close to the Kremlin told The Moscow Times.

“When it comes to commitments, in 2014 they came back [Крым] home port, including under the promise of financial well-being, development and security. In 2023, of course, our positions weakened. We cannot ensure safe transport accessibility at this time, he added.

Because after the strike on October 8 last year, President Vladimir Putin did not make a special appeal to the citizens and limited himself to a routine meeting with law enforcement agencies, during which he ordered the special services to improve security on the bridge and develop retaliatory measures. “The Ministry of Defense is preparing proposals,” Putin said. On Tuesday, July 18, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the answer was still being worked out.

The Kremlin’s main response is likely to be a series of intense attacks on Ukrainian cities, as has happened before, The Moscow Times sources are unanimous. The consequences of the explosion, which Putin called a “terrorist act”, are both humanitarian and strategic for Russia. The bridge is the main logistical artery for both civilians and military cargoes of the Russian army. July is the peak of the tourist season, which allows the inhabitants of the peninsula to earn money. However, many hotels on the coast are empty again this year: the number of bookings has fallen 19 times compared to pre-war 2021.

The second blow-up of a symbolic bridge for the Kremlin in 10 months shows Putin’s political and military weakness, nearly 17 months after the attack on Ukraine, say experts interviewed by The Moscow Times.

Evgeny Roshchin, a researcher at Princeton University, notes that as long as the war continues, there is no need to talk about any obligations of the Kremlin to the inhabitants of the occupied territories.

“I doubt if people there are seriously counting on them, given the previous bridge explosions and the regular arrivals of drones. This is the new normal for humans. They will carefully swear and wait for the restoration of the spans or the influx of tourists to the land, ”said Roshchin.

“Ukraine seeks to completely cut off communication routes between Crimea and Russia or make them risky and inconvenient,” said Oleg Ignatov, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. – Prosperity, security and other obligations towards the Crimeans? This is war and it has consequences.”


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