Blast damages only crossing between Russia and Crimea

This video capture taken and released on October 8, 2022 shows thick black smoke rising from a fire at the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea with Russia.

– | Afp | Getty Images

Russian authorities reported on Saturday that a large fire had broken out on the only bridge linking mainland Russia with the occupied Crimean peninsula.

Russian state-backed media quoted the national anti-terrorist committee as saying that a truck exploded on the vehicular side of the Kerch bridge at 6:07 a.m. local time, before the road partially collapsed .

The blaze reportedly set ablaze seven oil tankers being transported by rail to Crimea, with thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

The Kerch Bridge, sometimes known as the Crimean Bridge, is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flagship projects. It was built on his orders shortly after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014 to support Moscow’s claims to the territory.

A symbol of hatred for Ukrainians, the 19-kilometer (12-mile) crossing is a pair of road and rail bridges across the Kerch Strait that Russia uses to move military equipment into Ukraine.

A screenshot of a surveillance image shows flames and smoke rising after an explosion at the Kerch Bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea, on October 8, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The reported truck blast comes a day after Putin’s 70th birthday and at a time when the Kremlin’s months-long invasion of Ukraine has seen a series of humiliating setbacks in recent weeks.

Images and videos shared on social media appeared to show the extent of the fire and damage.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the authenticity of these reports and images.

“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning”

The head of the regional parliament installed by Russia in Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, blamed the incident on “Ukrainian vandals, who have finally managed to get their bloody hands on the Crimean bridge,” according to the BBC.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the damage was “the beginning,” though he stopped short of saying that Kyiv was responsible.

“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled,” Podolyak said via from Twitter.

The Ukrainian government’s official Twitter account, meanwhile, appeared to respond to the incident by saying “sick burn”.

People pose for photographs in front of a postage stamp image showing an artist’s impression of the burning Kerch Bridge on October 8, 2022 in central Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ed Ram | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian media reported that traffic had been suspended due to the incident and emergency and road services personnel were working at the scene to contain the fire.

“According to preliminary information, a fuel storage tank is on fire… The navigable bows were not damaged. It is too early to talk about causes and consequences. Work to extinguish the fire is underway,” Oleg Kryuchko , assistant to the Russian. the head of occupation of Crimea said via Telegram, according to the TASS news agency.

The incident comes hours after Russia focused its latest bombardment of attacks on areas of Ukraine it illegally annexed.

In what the West described as fake referendums, Putin declared “four new regions of Russia” late last month, when Moscow annexed the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Kyiv has said it will not stop fighting until it has regained every last centimeter of lost land in Russia.

Meanwhile, Moscow has said it has “the right” to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory and citizens if it deems there to be an existential threat, or even if attacked by conventional weapons.

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