Russia Announces Partial Reopening of Crimean Bridge for Car Traffic Amid Ukraine Conflict

The Russian government has reported that the bridge connecting Russia to Crimea has reopened partially, one day after it came under attack. An official shared video clips showing vehicles using a single lane on the bridge across the Kerch Strait. The attack on the bridge, which Russia attributed to seaborne drones launched by Ukraine, resulted in the tragic death of a holidaymaking couple and the injury of their daughter. While Russia denied any retaliatory action, it refused to extend a grain export deal with Ukrainian ports. President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack as an act of terrorism against a vital transportation link, promising a response from the Russian military. Subsequently, Ukraine faced a barrage of Russian missiles, including an attack at the port of Odesa, causing damage to the port and private residences. Russian news agency Interfax claimed the strike was in retaliation for the alleged Kerch Bridge attack planned by Ukrainians, but this has not been verified.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin shared a video of cars crossing the bridge at night and expressed hope for the restoration of two-way traffic by mid-September. According to Russia’s transport ministry, the bridge’s supports were undamaged despite the rupture caused by the attack. The Kerch Bridge, inaugurated in 2018, facilitates road and rail travel between Russia and Crimea, an area annexed by Russia in 2014 following an internationally unrecognized referendum. The bridge’s parallel railway line appears to be unaffected.

While Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack, a source in its security service reportedly told BBC Russian that Ukraine was behind it, utilizing water-based drones. However, no visual evidence has been presented to corroborate these claims. The bridge serves as a critical supply route for Russian forces present in parts of southern Ukraine since their invasion in February of the previous year.

This incident marks the second major attack on the Kerch Bridge in the past year. In October, the bridge was partially closed following an attack but was fully reopened in February. Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, accused Ukraine of attacking the bridge with alleged involvement from the UK and the US, without providing evidence to support the claims. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that there was no connection between the incident and Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in a deal enabling Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that Russia’s withdrawal from the deal would have severe consequences for the hundreds of millions of people facing hunger globally. He pledged the UN’s commitment to facilitating unimpeded access to global markets for food and fertilizers from both Ukraine and Russia. John Kirby, Coordinator of the US National Security Council, accused Russia of reestablishing an “effective blockade of Ukrainian ports” and held Russia solely responsible for the repercussions of this military aggression. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described Russia’s decision as deplorable and called on all UN member states to demand Russia’s resumption of the deal in good faith, urging Russia to prioritize global food security over politics.