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Explosions disrupt traffic on a key bridge from Crimea to Russia's mainland

This photo released by Ostorozhno Novosti on Monday, July 17, 2023, reportedly shows damaged parts of an automobile link of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait not far from Kerch, Crimea.
AP
This photo released by Ostorozhno Novosti on Monday, July 17, 2023, reportedly shows damaged parts of an automobile link of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait not far from Kerch, Crimea.

MOSCOW – At least two people reportedly died and another was injured early on Monday after what Russian authorities said was a Ukrainian attack on a key bridge linking the Russian mainland to the annexed peninsula of Crimea.

Russian media reported two explosions hit what is called the Kerch Bridge that connects southern Russia to annexed Crimea. Russian officials called the incident a "terrorist attack" that was staged by Ukrainian special forces involving two sea drones. There was no claim of responsibility from the Ukrainian side, but a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's Southern Command said the explosions could be a staged provocation by Russia to undermine a grain export deal that expires Monday.

Witness video online did appear to show a section of road partially collapsed, although a parallel railway track appears undamaged. Local authorities have also identified the victims; they say a teenage girl was left orphaned after her parents' car was apparently hit from the impact of whatever caused the damage.

Russia has made it clear where they think the responsibility lies: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of carrying out a terrorist attack with help, she said, from U.S. and British intelligence.

It was the second significant strike on the bridge since last October, when a truck bomb damaged two sections of the bridge. The bridge is a key supply line for Russian forces operating in southern Ukraine. It's also an important symbol of Moscow's control of Crimea, the territory Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin personally drove the first vehicle over the bridge when it opened in 2018 to much fanfare.

For all those reasons Ukraine has said the bridge is a legitimate military target.

Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's security services, has repeatedly called the bridge redundant. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar recently listed a previous attack on the bridge last fall on Ukraine's list of military successes.

NPR's Joanna Kakissis contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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