Moscow says Ukraine attacked strategic Crimea bridge, killing two

The Ukrainian military attacked a strategic Crimea bridge with naval drones overnight from Sunday to Monday, killing two civilians according to Moscow, while uncertainty remains over the future of the grain deal, which is due to expire in the evening.

The Ukrainian attack significantly damaged the road section of the bridge, the only bridge that links Russia to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and serves as a rear base for Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. does.

It was carried out by Ukrainian special services and naval forces using “naval drones”, a source in the Ukrainian security services (SBU) told AFP on Monday.

The attack was carried out by Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed on Telegram.

Photo taken from video showing Russian investigators at the damaged Crimean bridge after a naval drone strike by Ukrainian forces on July 17, 2023 (Russian Investigative Committee/AFP – -)

The Russian Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said in a statement that it happened at 03:05 (00:05 GMT) and confirmed that it was carried out by a “naval surface drone”.

Two civilians, a man and a woman, who were driving the vehicle were killed and their daughter injured, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement on Monday.

The Russian governor of the annexed Crimean peninsula, Sergei Aksionov, initially mentioned an “emergency” on telegrams that required a halt to traffic on the bridge, with the Russian Ministry of Transport specifying on its part that the road had been “damaged”. .

On Telegram, the Crimea-24 public television channel posted a video of the bridge showing a partially collapsed section of its roadway.

The inquiry committee also released a video, which shows people picking up clues along a path sloping towards the sea.

The Crimean Bridge, 18 kilometers long and inaugurated in 2018, consists of two parallel structures, one reserved for road traffic and the other for rail traffic.

Crimean officials said the railway section of the bridge was not damaged and traffic resumed there in the morning. Ferry services have also resumed to cross this part of the sea, with motorists wishing to cross the strait being asked to use them.

Video from the state-run Crimea-24 TV channel shows the damaged Crimean bridge after a naval drone strike by Ukrainian forces, July 17, 2023 (Crimea24TV/AFP - -)
Video from the state-run Crimea-24 TV channel shows the damaged Crimean bridge after a naval drone strike by Ukrainian forces, July 17, 2023 (Crimea24TV/AFP – -)

The viaduct, which spans the Kerch Strait, had already been damaged by a powerful explosion on 8 October, which Russian officials attributed to a truck trapped by Ukrainian secret services.

The concrete bridge, built at great cost on the orders of Vladimir Putin, was put into service again.

Russian Senate Chairman Sergei Mironov has said Moscow should retaliate by attacking Ukrainian infrastructure and calling off talks on the grain deal, which expire at midnight (21:00 GMT) on Monday.

“That’s what we need to do, not discuss a grain deal that helps line the pockets of the Kiev rulers and their Western masters,” he said.

– Grain agreement pending –

Uncertainty remained on Monday about the future of the Black Sea grain agreement, considered vital to world food, just hours before it was due to expire at midnight (9:00 GMT) in Istanbul.

Final maneuvers led by Turkey and the United Nations to persuade Moscow to extend a grain deal signed in July 2022 on the Bosphorus were shrouded in silence and discretion throughout the weekend.

It has ensured the safe passage of cargo ships to Ukrainian ports despite the war in the past year, and has transported a total of about 33 million tons of grain to world markets.

But Russia has not announced its green signal and the Black Sea Grain Initiative is now virtually stalled.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured on Friday that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “agrees” with him on the extension of the accord. But a Kremlin spokesman quickly replied that no such statement had been made.

Mr Putin has repeatedly denounced the barriers to the export of Russian food products and fertilisers, which were in place with Ukrainian products.

He also ruled on Saturday that “the main objective of the agreement, the delivery of grain to countries in need, especially on the African continent” was “not achieved”.

Ukrainian grain exported by sea (AFP - Sophie Stuber)
Ukrainian grain exported by sea (AFP – Sophie Stuber)

China and Turkey are the primary beneficiaries of the shipments, along with developed economies, according to official figures from the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) overseeing the deal in Istanbul.

But thanks to the agreement, the World Food Program (WFP) has been able to provide relief to a dozen countries in dire situations, such as Afghanistan, Sudan or Yemen.

At the military level in Ukraine, Kiev confirmed on Monday that it had withdrawn 18 km2 from Russian forces over the entire Ukrainian territory in a week, including 7 km2 around the devastated city of Bakhmut (east), which in May came under Russian control. After months of deadly skirmishes.

On Friday, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andrey Irmak, admitted that the retaliation was not progressing “fast enough”.

Despite Kiev’s long-awaited Western arms deliveries, the Ukrainian army is faced with Russian troops who have had time to set up strong defences, including formidable landmines, and are still critical of attacking Ukrainian forces. Has firepower.

Add a Comment