Two killed, child wounded in ’emergency’ on Russian Crimea bridge

Officials report ’emergency’ on bridge linking Crimea to Russian mainland and urge residents not to travel via the overpass.

Crimean bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the peninsula across the Kerch Strait, Crimea [Reuters]

Two people have been killed and a child wounded in an “emergency situation” on a Russian-built bridge linking the annexed Crimean Peninsula to Russia’s Krasnodar region, according to officials.

The announcement on Monday came hours after Moscow-installed officials said traffic along the bridge had been halted and media in Ukraine reported explosions along the overpass.

Images from the scene showed no traffic crossing the 19-km (12-mile) road and rail bridge, while footage on social media showed twisted metal barriers, debris and a damaged car.

Dash cam footage showed drivers braking sharply shortly after the incident.

The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod, said the casualties on the bridge included a couple and their daughter.

“We all saw with you on a video on the Internet a damaged car with Belgorod numbers. What information is available at the moment: a girl was injured,” Gladkov said on the Telegram messaging app.

“The hardest thing is that her parents died, dad and mum.”

The girl was being treated in intensive care, he added.

Sergei Aksyonov, a Russia-installed governor, said the emergency occurred on the 145th pillar of the bridge.

“Law enforcement agencies and all relevant services are working…  measures are being taken to handle the situation,” he said, without providing additional details.

The Russian TASS news agency said train traffic on the bridge may be changed because of the “emergency situation” there, while the RIA state news agency said that police officers were warning drivers that the ferry service in the area was not working either.

The RBC-Ukraine news agency meanwhile said explosions had been heard on the bridge, while Russia’s Grey Zone, a Telegram channel affiliated with the Wagner mercenary group, also reported that there were two attacks on the bridge at 03.04am (00:04 GMT) and 03.20am (00:20 GMT).

Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the reports.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, but the peninsula is internationally recognised as part of Ukrainian territory. The bridge linking Crimea to Krasnodar serves as a vital link for transporting supplies to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

George Barros, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said if the bridge was seriously damaged it would significantly impact Russian supply lines.

“Russia will only have one ground supply line – the coastal highway on the Sea of Azov – to sustain (or evacuate) its tens of thousands of troops in occupied Kherson & Crimea if UKR manages to degrade/destroy the bridge,” Barros said on Twitter.

The bridge was damaged by an explosion last October in an attack the Kremlin said had been orchestrated by Ukrainian security forces.

Ukraine admitted only indirectly to the attack months later.

After the October attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the bridge repaired and even drove a Mercedes across it. The bridge, Europe’s longest, was completed in 2018 and Putin has long lauded the project, boasting at one point that Russian Tsars and Soviet leaders had dreamed of building it but never did.

Both the governors of Crimea and the Krasnodar region said on Monday that they set up operational headquarters in their regions to address the emergency situation on the bridge.

The Russian-backed administration of the peninsula said Crimea is provided with all necessary stock but urged residents not to travel via the bridge.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, Natalia Humeniuk, said the incident on the Crimea Bridge could be an act of provocation on Moscow’s side.

“The creation of such provocations, which the occupying authorities of Crimea report immediately very loudly, is a typical way of solving problems by authorities of Crimea and the aggressor country,” Humeniuk told the national broadcaster Rada.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies