A massive fire is burning on the Kerch Strait Bridge that connects Russia to Crimea Saturday morning, with images showing multiple train cars fully engulfed and two spans of the road bridge in the water.
Editor's note/update: You can read our latest coverage of this incident here.
Traffic on the bridge, a critical strategic artery for Russian forces in Crimea amid its war in Ukraine, has reportedly been halted as heavy flames and black smoke spew from a train carrying unknown cargo. Photos also show spans of both east and westbound lanes have collapsed into the water near the burning train.
The bridge cost billions to build after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and has been one of Ukraine's top targets, although it lacked traditional weaponry capable of striking it from far away. Even the Pentagon has openly stated that it sees the bridge as a viable target for Ukrainian forces. Russia has deployed air defenses and decoy barges in an attempt to protect it from some kind of attack in recent months.
While this explosion could be an accident, it would be an incredibly convenient one for Ukraine and a catastrophic and embarrassing one for Russia.
We will continue to update this story as more information comes available.
The damage is severe to the highway span and it looks like the rail span will drop soon with the fire raging around the train.
UPDATE: 10:40pm PDT—
Traffic on the bridge has been suspended, the Russian RIA Novosti news outlet said on its Telegram channel, citing a road administration official.
A parking lot with water and toilets has been set up in Kerch for vehicles unable to cross the Crimean Bridge, authorities said, according to the Telegram page of TASS.
“Traffic on the Crimean bridge is completely closed, the launch of a ferry across the strait is being prepared,” the KerchINFO Telegram channel reported, citing Crimean authorities said.
RIA Novosti blamed the blast on a fuel tank fire and are acting like its not a big deal because the arches aren't damaged:
“A fuel tank, according to preliminary data, is on fire on one of the sections of the Crimean bridge,” according to RIA Novosti. “The shipping arches are not damaged, the adviser to the head of the Crimea said.”
There can be no doubt that this is a massive blow to Russian logistics for this war. That bridge was a critical link for the war effort. It has been taken out when Russia is supposedly starting a surge of forces with the risk to Crimea now being a very palpable thing. Whatever the cause, it is a huge development.
The Kerch Strait bridge is also a symbol of Russian power that was supposed to cement its seizing of Crimea. It cost billions to build and was a major source of pride. This is an absolutely massive shift in optics.
UPDATE: 10:55pm PDT—
The “National anti-terrorist committee” says a “truck was blown up on the Kerch Bridge," RIA Novosti reported on its Telegram channel. “There was a partial collapse of two automobile spans of the Crimean bridge, the arch over the navigable part of the bridge was not damaged.”
Hearing about runs on gas already in Crimea.
UPDATE: 11:15pm PST—
New images of the bridge with the train's fuel cars still burning. One of the highway spans is still hanging on but sagging badly.
Of course, Ukrainians and the NAFO crew is having a field day with this on social media:
First official mention we have seen from the government in Kyiv, from Михайло Подоляк, the 'adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy':
“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything belonging to the Russian occupation must be expelled.”
UPDATE: 11:27pm PST—
A surveillance video of the truck exploding has been posted online. This is a remarkable video:
Still from the video show that a full-on semi tractor-trailer was present, and the aftermath. Still not 100% this was the weapon:
Another angle that is even more remarkable:
Update: 11:40 pm PST—
There appears to be a boat (or a large wake from one) in the lower right corner that emerges under the bridge right before it blows.
New quip from Ukraine's official Twitter channel:
More from official Ukrainian government sources:
One thing we must remember is Russia keeps a very close eye on all marine traffic around the bridge. This was the case before the all-out invasion but to a whole ever level since it began. This would point to the truck-borne IED being the more likely culprit, but we just don't know.
This is a look at some of the truck inspection setups Russia was running at the ends of the bridge:
Possibly a clearer video:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the creation of a “government commission in connection with the emergency” on the Kerch Bridge, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to RIA Novosti.
The head of the Crimean Parliament Konstantinov said that the roadway on the Crimean bridge was damaged by "Ukrainian vandals," RIA Novosti reported. "Damages on the Crimean bridge will be promptly repaired since they are not of a severe nature."
“There is no doubt that the Russian Federation will give an adequate, conscious and, possibly, asymmetric response to the emergency on the Crimean bridge, Senator Bashkin told RIA Novosti.
State Duma deputy Oleg Morozov “said that the long-announced terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge is no longer just a challenge, it is a declaration of war without rules,” RIA Novosti reported.
A “land transport corridor” has been established from Crimea to other regions of the Russian Federation through new territories, TASS reported, citing regional authorities.
Vacationers in Crimean sanatoriums and hotels will be extended, and all costs will be compensated at the expense of the republic, the pro-Russian leader of occupied Crimea Sergey Aksenov said, according to TASS.
Update: 12:50pm PST—
First official quip from the Ukraine MoD:
At least four or five ferries will be used to organize communication between Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory, TASS reported, citing the maritime services of the Kuban.
Also according to TASS: The Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation reported that they had begun assessing the damage, volume, and timing of restoration work on the Crimean bridge. The ministry added that it is looking at new ways to provide goods and services to the people and economy of Crimea.
Refunds for railway tickets to and from Crimea will be carried out without deducting fees, according to the Grand Service Express transportation operator.
Rationing of groceries and gas has already begun in Crimea according to multiple sources:
A past look at truck inspections at the Kerch Strait Bridge. How much of this was security theater?:
Update: 4:00am PST—
Surveillance footage has surfaced purportedly showing the truck in question being inspected prior to crossing the bridge:
Russia says the attack shows Ukraine's 'terrorist nature."
Calls for major reprisals are growing on Russian social media. These range from broad strikes against Ukraine's infrastructure — uncertain how they could actually carry those out these days — to using tactical nuclear weapons.
The supply situation wasn't good in Kherson before this attack, now it will only get worse. The supply route via Russia's 'annexed' land bridge is coming closer and closer to Ukrainian forces, as well.
Russian officials are saying Crimea has 15 days of fuel in reserve on the peninsula as people living there rush to fill their tanks.
Kyiv Independent posted one report that Ukraine's SBU security and intel service was responsible for the attack:
People are trying to get off the peninsula, but that will be slow going via limited ferry capacity as the Kerch Strait Bridge became an assumed convenience for years.
Up until recently, it was being touted how well-protected the bridge was:
Update: 5:00 am PST—
Russia is now saying three people died in the blast and that the owner of the truck in question has been identified.
New video of Russians inspecting the damage:
Estonia's foreign minister congratulates Ukraine on knocking out the Kerch Strait Bridge:
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com