Putin accuses Ukraine of orchestrating Crimea bridge blast; calls it terrorism

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Kyiv – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused Ukraine of orchestrating the powerful blast that damaged a bridge linking Russia and Crimea, calling the blast an “act of terrorism.”

“There is no doubt. This is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying a very important civilian infrastructure,” Putin said in a video on the Kremlin’s Telegram channel.

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“This was devised, carried out and ordered by the Ukrainian special services,” Putin said.

He was meeting with Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which was presenting the findings of an investigation into Saturday’s explosion and fire at the bridge.

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The explosion at the bridge over the Kerch Strait, a key supply route for Moscow’s forces in southern Ukraine, had prompted cheering messages from Ukrainian officials on Saturday, but no claim of responsibility.

The bridge is also an important artery for the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based.

The damage to the bridge, which had been a towering symbol of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, came amid Russia’s battlefield defeats and could further cloud the Kremlin’s assurances that the conflict will be planned

Rail services and partial road traffic resumed a day after the blast. Pictures showed half of a section of the bridge’s roadway blown away, with the other half still attached.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and the 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge linking the region to its transport network was opened with much fanfare four years later by Putin.

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Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said divers would begin work on Sunday to examine the damage to the Crimea bridge, and a more detailed survey above the waterline was expected to be complete by the end of the day, they inform national news agencies.

Russia’s transport ministry said freight trains and long-distance passenger trains crossing the bridge were running according to Sunday’s schedule. Limited traffic resumed on Saturday around 10 hours after the explosion.

“The situation is manageable – it’s unpleasant, but not fatal,” Crimea’s Russian governor, Sergei Aksyonov, told reporters. “Of course, emotions have run high and there’s a healthy desire for revenge.”

(Reporting by Max Hunder, Jonathan Landay in Kyiv, Sergiy Chalyi in Zaporizhzhia and Reuters bureaus; Writing by Jonathan Landay, Frances Kerry and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Alex Richardson and Cynthia Osterman)



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