Russia opens a criminal probe into the blast that blew up the vital bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to the mainland.
The main bridge linking the Crimean peninsula with mainland Russia has been partially destroyed in a truck explosion, Russian media reported, putting at risk a key supply route for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, called it “an act of war” as the country’s investigative committee said on Saturday it had “initiated a criminal case in connection with the incident on the Crimean bridge,” adding that “a truck was blown up”.
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“According to preliminary information, this morning on the automobile part of the Crimean bridge from the side of the Taman Peninsula, a truck was blown up, which caused seven fuel tanks to ignite on a train heading towards the Crimea peninsula,” the committee said.
“As a result, two lanes partially collapsed.”
‘A big blow’ to the Russians
Al Jazeera’s Mohamad Vall, reporting from Moscow, said the explosion on Kerch bridge was a “big blow” to the Russians.
“Russians are still trying to make sense of what happened,” Vall said, adding that the bridge is a key supply line between mainland Russia and Crimea.
Reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said there was “jubilation” in Ukraine after the incident.
“This does strike at Vladimir Putin’s prestige. It does strike Vladimir Putin’s image of control. And I think under the bravado of Ukraine at the moment, there might be some nervousness about what his response might be to this,” he added.
“It also gives the Russians a very big headache when it comes to supplying their southern front in Ukraine because the [Russian] army … at the moment is largely supplied by rail networks and that main railway network for the southern front came through Crimea across the Kerch bridge,” Challands said.
He said now the only other route by rail is via the north shore of the Sea of Azov and that is currently about 30 to 40 kilometres from the front lines.
Images shared on social media purported to show fire and damage to the span.
The Tass news agency also reported the fire. Ukraine’s media reported an explosion at the road and rail bridge at about 6am (03:00 GMT).
Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the vital road and rail bridge in 2018 after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in violation of international law in 2014.
The fire occurred hours after explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early on Saturday, sending towering plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of secondary explosions.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram that the early-morning explosions were the result of missile strikes in the centre of the city.
He said that the blasts sparked fires at one of the city’s medical institutions and a non-residential building. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
In September, Russia announced the annexation of the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia after staging referendums that Kyiv and the West say were phoney exercises held at gunpoint.
Ukraine’s military in recent weeks has pushed back against Russian forces across the front lines in the south and the east, including in parts of Donetsk. Western weaponry has helped the Ukrainian army win back more territory in the past month than Russian forces have taken in five months.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES