LONDON (Reuters) – The road and rail bridge linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula was damaged by a powerful explosion on Saturday, hitting a crucial supply route for Russian forces in Ukraine. Here are the key facts about the bridge.
CRIMEA AND RUSSIA LINK
The 19 km (12 mile) Crimean Bridge over the Kerch Strait is the only direct link between Russia’s transportation network and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The bridge was a flagship project of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who himself opened it to road traffic to much fanfare while driving a truck in 2018.
It consists of a separate causeway and railway track, both supported by concrete pilings, which give way to a wider span held up by steel arches at the point where ships pass between the Black Sea and the smallest Sea of Azov.
The structure was built, at a reported cost of $3.6 billion, by a company owned by Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally and former judo partner of Putin.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
The bridge is crucial for the supply of fuel, food and other products to Crimea, where the port of Sevastopol is the historical base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
It also became a major supply route for Russian forces after Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, sending forces from Crimea to seize most of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. Ukraine, and part of the neighboring province of Zaporizhzhia.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that these troops could be fully supplied by existing land and sea routes.
WHAT WAS DESTROYED
Saturday’s blast destroyed sections of road driving traffic in one direction.
Traffic was initially suspended after the incident, but on Saturday evening cars and buses were allowed to start crossing the bridge alternately on the remaining intact lanes, while heavy goods vehicles waited to cross by ferry.
Russian officials said rail traffic would resume on Saturday evening.
The span through which ships cross the strait was not damaged.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry)