In the early hours of Monday (7/17/23), a devastating explosion occurred on the bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, resulting in a traffic halt. The bridge is an important route for the supply of Kremlin forces in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. This incident marks the second time within a year that the bridge has been temporarily closed due to damage caused by an attack. The attack resulted in the loss of two lives. The situation raised concerns about the implications for the UN-brokered deal, which allows the safe export of Ukrainian grains through the Black Sea. Russia halted the deal shortly after the explosion.

The bridge linking Russia to Crimea spans approximately 12 miles and is a critical road and rail connection. It is considered the longest bridge in Europe and holds significant strategic value for Russia’s military operations.

Reports indicate that the blast occurred at around 03:04 a.m., followed by another explosion at 03:20 a.m. Although the exact nature of the attack is yet to be independently verified, the Russian Grey Zone channel associated with the Wagner mercenary group reported two strikes on the bridge. The Ukrainian Security Service remains silent regarding its involvement in the attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin swiftly condemned the attack and expressed his determination to investigate the incident thoroughly. He labeled the act as terrorism, stating that it had no military significance and resulted in the injury and death of innocent civilians. President Putin vowed a response from Russia while emphasizing that the Crimean Bridge has not been utilized for military purposes for an extended period. President Putin ordered a thorough investigation into the attack and emphasized the need for concrete proposals to enhance the security of the Crimean Bridge.

The explosion severely damaged sections of the bridge and brought traffic to a standstill, causing significant disruption and loss of life. Rail traffic was also disrupted for approximately six hours. Satellite images captured the extensive destruction, with one section of the bridge collapsing. However, the railroad bridge running parallel to the highway appeared unaffected.

Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack. However, a Ukrainian Security Service spokesperson hinted at revealing details regarding the incident after Ukraine achieved victory in the ongoing conflict. The October 2022 attack, which also targeted the bridge, was indirectly admitted by Ukraine months later.

The blast tragically claimed the lives of a couple, Alexei and Natalia Kulik, who were traveling to Crimea for a summer vacation. Their 14-year-old daughter suffered injuries to her chest and brain. The incident highlights the devastating impact on innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict.

Following the bridge closure, traffic jams ensued in the Russian-held part of the Kherson region, as motorists were redirected to take alternative land routes through partially occupied regions. The redirection led to congested highways and lengthy delays for travelers heading to Crimea.

The blast on the Crimean Bridge serves as a reminder of the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The incident further highlights the destructive consequences and human toll of such acts of violence.

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