It is becoming increasingly clear that Kyiv may seek to gain control of Crimea back from Moscow, or at least isolate the peninsula from the Russian-controlled mainland, as part of its ongoing offensive. On Thursday, a Russian-backed official said that one of the bridges linking the Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s Kherson region to Crimea had been damaged in a missile strike.
Via a post to the Telegram social messaging platform, Sergei Aksyonov, the Kremlin-installed leader of Crimea, said that there had been no casualties from an overnight attack on the Chonhar Bridge, but added that the bridge was being investigated.
“At night, a blow was struck on the Chongar bridge. There were no casualties,” Aksyonov wrote in his post. “At the moment, explosive experts are conducting an examination to assess the type of ammunition. The profile services have begun to inspect the roadway. The possibility of movement will be reported within the hour. Please remain calm and trust only trusted sources of information.”
Vladimir Konstantinov, chairman of the Russian-backed parliament of Crimea, also suggested that the bridge would be repaired within several days. Yet, another Russian-appointed official, Vladimir Saldo, also told reporters that the explosion that damaged the bridge appeared to have been caused by a type of long-range cruise missile – and suggested that it was from a type of ordnance supplied to Ukraine by France or the UK.
Russian forces have relied on the Chongar Bridge to reach southern Ukraine’s Kherson province. The so-called “Gate to Crimea” is one of only a handful of links to the peninsula from Russian-controlled territory.
Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014, and the Kremlin’s forces had worked for months to fortify the area. That has included defensive positions along the coastline. Though Crimea has been targeted in a number of drone and even missile strikes, Kyiv typically has not claimed responsibility for such attacks.
However, Yuriy Sobolevsky, a Ukrainian official on the governing body for the Kherson region, said via Telegram that the strike on Thursday was “a blow to the military logistics of the occupiers.”
He added, “The psychological impact on the occupiers and the occupying power is even more important. There is no place on the territory of Kherson region where they can feel safe.”
Ukrainian authorities have vowed that for the war to end, Moscow will need to withdraw its forces from the peninsula as well as the other lands it occupied when it launched its unprovoked invasion in late February 2022. This week the conflict will enter its 16th month of fighting.
Cutting the Links
Crimea is connected to mainland Ukraine via an isthmus that is only about 9 km (6 miles) wide, as well as via several bridges. Since Russia illegally annexed the peninsula almost a decade ago, it also constructed the 19-km-long (12-mile-long) Kerch Bridge, which crosses over a strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
It is the longest bridge in Europe and also serves to back Moscow’s claim on Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over the opening of the bridge in 2018 and was the first to drive across it.
An explosion last October damaged the bridge and caused a span’s partial collapse. Kyiv did not claim responsibility for the attack, but as noted has vowed to regain control of the peninsula.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.