February 4, 2023 2:34 pm

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Crimean Bridge: Why is it Significant to Russia?

A massive explosion on Saturday (9 October 2022) destroyed parts of the Crimean Bridge — the only link between mainland Russia and Crimean Peninsula

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Crimean Bridge

A massive explosion on Saturday (8 October 2022) destroyed parts of the Crimean Bridge — the only link between mainland Russia and Crimean Peninsula. A day after the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of orchestrating the attack and termed it an ‘act of terrorism’.

The Crimean Bridge holds deep significance for Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, as it is the symbol of Russian unity with Crimea.

Crimean Bridge engulfed in fire after explosion
Crimean Bridge engulfed in fire after explosion

What Happened?

On Saturday morning, a truck loaded with explosives blew away parts of the Crimean bridge.

According to Russian officials, a truck detonated, causing sections of the bridge’s roadway to collapse. Following that, a train of fuel tanks on a second, neighboring rail part of the bridge also caught fire. Soon after, photos and videos of the damaged structure went viral on social media platforms.

On Sunday, Russia accused Ukraine of conducting a planned attack on the civil infrastructure. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a meeting, “There is no doubt. This is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure”. A day before, the State Council of Crimea Chairman Vladimir Konstantinov had directly held Ukraine responsible for the explosion.

Till now Ukraine has not claimed any responsibility for the incident but that has not stopped the country from expressing delight over the incident.

Ukraine’s Response

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday made a veiled reference to the incident, describing Crimea as “cloudy but warm”.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry posted on Twitter that Moskva and the Kerch Bridge (Crimean Bridge) — two symbols of Russian power in Crimea have now gone down.

Ukrainian citizens were elated as they shared several celebratory messages on social media. 

Crimean Bridge engulfed in fire after explosion
Ukrain citizens celebrating Crimean Bridge Explosion

Significance of the Crimean Bridge

The Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, was built after Russia took control of Crimea during the initial phase of the Russian-Ukraine War in 2014. 

The bridge, inaugurated by Vladimir Putin himself — as he rode a truck across it — had dethroned Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge as the longest in Europe. Stretching to over 19 kilometres, the bridge is the primary link between the Crimean peninsula and Russian mainland.

At the inauguration ceremony Vladimir Putin said, “In different historical epochs, even under the tsar priests, people dreamed of building this bridge”.

“Then they returned to the idea in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s. And finally, thanks to your work and your talent, the miracle has happened”, the Russian President had stated proudly.

The Crimean bridge has served as a powerful symbol of Russia’s commitment to permanently incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation. 

How it would have impacted the current Ukraine-Russia War?

Any permanent damage to the Crimea Bridge would severely affect the Russian war effort in the ongoing conflict against Ukraine.

According to a report, it could have crippled Russia’s ability to wage war in southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting an increasingly effective counteroffensive.

The bridge serves as the main military supply route connecting Russia and the Crimean Peninsula.

Analysts say that without it, the Russian military will be severely limited in its ability to deliver fuel, equipment, and ammunition to Russian units fighting in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

History With Crimea

For a long time, Crimea has been an important part of Russian Foreign Policy.

Historically, Crimea had been a part of Russia for 200 years until 1954, when the then-Russian Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, gave it to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. It was to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the historic decision by Ukraine to unify with tsarist Russia.

Though no one had predicted the dissolution of the USSR, which would come later in the future.

As the USSR disintegrated and Ukraine became an independent nation, the policies changed apart from borders and maps.

For the new Russian Federation, the naval base at Sevastopol (port city in Crimea) became critical for its navy. A treaty between Russia and Ukraine allowed the former to keep its fleet in Black sea intact and also lease the Sevastopol naval base.

It also provides direct access to the Russian navy to the Mediterranean Sea.

For Russia, the Crimean Bridge — which connects Russia with Crimea — was a matter of pride. The destruction, though partial, will only invite a more assertive reaction, which in turn will affect not only Ukraine but many countries.

From The Indian Perspective

So far, India has taken a purely diplomatic approach to the Ukraine-Russia War — which changed after Indian PM Narendra Modi expressed concern over war with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Crimean bridge incident is a red light for India as this signals that war could eventually last much longer between Ukraine and Russia. It would in turn lead to disruption of supply chains, thus an increase in food prices. 

What Lies Ahead?

Even before the formation of an commission to probe the incident, voices in Russia were loud in their demands to punish Ukraine.

In Russia, several claimed it to be a human rights violation as the bridge was being used by the public. 

None can confirm at the moment who actually is responsible for the explosion. Even though Ukraine has not claimed responsibility, it is cheering for Russia’s loss. 

However, the probability that President Vladimir Putin might now relaunch a ferocious counter-offensive, cannot be denied. The speculation turned into reality on Monday (10 October 2022) as the Russian Military unleashed deadly strikes on several Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, the country’s capital.

Yash Rawat
Yash Rawat

Its been hard to express myself so here I am.. writing.

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