Who blew up a major bridge in Crimea?

Hearing about something blowing up in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t exactly breaking news these days. Things are being blown up on a regular basis. But this morning’s report of an important (to the Russians) and massive bridge being put out of service and catching fire comes with a few twists.

The Crimean Bridge, linking the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland, suffered an explosion and subsequent fire rendering a few sections of the bridge impassable and cutting off an important supply route to southern Ukraine for the Russian army. The first major twist to the story is the fact that a truck bomb was blamed for the blast rather than a missile strike of some kind. The second twist, much as was the case with the Nord Stream pipelines, is that we’re still not entirely sure who did it.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the attack, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility.

We should be clear that the section of the bridge that was damaged by the blast and the fire didn’t entirely collapse. The Crimean Bridge, 12 miles in length, is the largest in Europe and has both vehicular lanes and a rail line. It should be repairable, though it’s going to take some time. The truck bomb caused seven fuel tankers on the bridge to catch fire, increasing the total damage.

This situation is potentially even more complicated than the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. The Crimean Bridge is, as the name suggests, in Crimea. Since nobody managed to stop Russia from annexing Crimea almost a decade ago, Moscow has at least a potential claim to say that this attack took place on Russian soil. Putin could conceivably try to use that as an excuse for further escalation, potentially of the tactical nuclear variety.

So who did this? Unlike the situation with the Nor Stream pipelines, nobody seems to be claiming that this was another diabolic, genius plan by Vladimir Putin to “send a message” by blowing up his own bridge and cutting off his army’s resupply lines. (At least so far.) So it had to be Ukraine, right? That’s what the Crimean Parliament claimed almost immediately. But thus far, Moscow hasn’t pointed the finger at them. Why not?

Ukraine certainly stands to benefit the most from this act, but the only statement from Kyiv thus far was a claim that the Crimean Bridge was poorly constructed and failed on its own. The Ukrainian Parliamentary leader said, “Russian illegal construction is starting to fall apart and catch fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, then sooner or later it will explode.”

That seems doubtful at best. But assuming Ukraine did this, why did they use a truck bomb? That’s more the style of a terrorist group, right? We’ve given Zelensky more than enough long-range rockets to launch an attack on that bridge and he’s threatened to attack it before. 

Could this have actually been some outside terror group trying to cause more trouble for the Russian army? Or perhaps it was a group of “free agents” fighting on Ukraine’s side that decided to use a cruder type of attack. 

Alternately, the use of a truck bomb might have been an effort to make it look less obvious that Ukraine did it because of potential concerns over looking like they were striking Russian territory.

Verifiable information about what’s going on inside of Ukraine (and now Crimea) has been hard to come by at times. Perhaps this will all be sorted out later. But one thing that seems certain is that Putin has suffered another embarrassing setback at the hands of a nation he originally expected to completely conquer in a matter of weeks.

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