Ukrainian president and ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelensky rediscovered his comic chops in a tongue-in-cheek weather report following damage to a key stra
Ukrainian president and ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelensky rediscovered his comic chops in a tongue-in-cheek weather report following damage to a key strategic bridge between Russia and Moscow-annexed Crimea.
Zelensky said: ‘Today was a good and mostly sunny day in our country. Over most of the territory, it was about 20 degrees Celsius and sunny.
‘Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea, although it was still warm. But however the clouds are, Ukrainians know what to do, and they know that our future is sunny.
‘This is the future without invaders, on all our territory, in particular in Crimea.’
Three people were killed when the apparent truck bomb took down a chunk of the bridge between Russia and the Ukrainian region stolen by Putin in 2014.
The explosion took place just hours after Putin’s 70th birthday, with one of Zelensky’s aides joking: ‘Happy birthday, Mr President’.
The plot thickened when a mysterious ‘wave’ was caught on video, fuelling speculation that Ukrainian special services used a boat or explosive-laden drone to launch an attack that has damaged Putin‘s supply lines.
The massive blast, suspected to have been carried out by Ukrainian saboteurs, rocked the bridge early this morning
Eyewitness footage this morning showed the bridge burning hours after the initial detonation along the key supply line
Putin (pictured on September 30) responded to the humiliating attack by upping security and enlisting the FSB’s help
Moscow furiously claimed a truck bomb caused the blast which killed at least three people but did not apportion blame – while the speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament accused Kyiv of being behind the explosion.
Putin responded to the embarrassing attack by ordering tightened security at the bridge.
In a decree issued hours after the bridge was damaged by a blast, Putin said the FSB security service would be responsible for strengthening protection measures.
Dramatic new footage shows the blast rocking the Kerch Bridge and causing its partial collapse, in yet another humiliation for Moscow as its forces retreat from occupied southern and eastern Ukraine amid a sweeping counter-offensive by Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops. The Kremlin had claimed the bridge, which was opened personally Putin in 2018 to much fanfare in Russian-state media, was being protected by a maximum security operation which even included attack dolphins.
Russian law enforcement has identified Samir Yusubov, 25, from the Krasnodar region in Russia, as the alleged owner of the red-coloured International Prostar truck, which, according to investigators, exploded on the Crimean Bridge. They are still investigating who was driving the truck when it exploded.
Workers are pictured repairing the railway line section of the bridge over the Kerch Strait this evening on Putin’s orders
The rail bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula can be seen engulfed in flames on the right, while a huge section of the road bridge has collapsed into the sea
Cars are pictured below the damaged bridge connecting Crimea to Russia tonight, hours after a massive explosion
But the so-called ‘wave’ which appeared under the bridge before it was destroyed has led to speculation that it was attacked using a boat or explosive-laden drone.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the destruction, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility. However, a top aide to President Zelensky boasted that ‘Putin should be happy. Not everyone gets such an expensive birthday present’, and the Prime Minister of Estonia suggested that the attack was committed by Ukraine.
The attack could cut supplies to Putin’s forces as Ukraine makes more advances in the south towards Kherson. A section of the bridge has collapsed into the sea and seven oil tankers on a train caught fire in the blast. Long fuel lines are already forming in Crimea, despite Russian claims to have enough supplies to last two weeks.
Officials at the bridge opened the doors of the truck before sending it on its way – despite claims it was guarded with a maximum-security operation
Images appear to show movement in the water under the bridge a split second before the explosion which brought down the road bridge and set fire to oil tankers
The Kerch Bridge is the only direct link between Russia and Crimea and is a crucial supply line for Russian forces in Ukraine
The explosion is the latest setback in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Putin’s forces struggling to hold ground in the past few months
The fire continued to rage on the rail bridge following the explosion as Russian state media said several fuel tanks were on fire
Eyewitnesses said the enormous blast could be heard from miles away, and a column of smoke could be seen rising over the Black Sea
Russian propaganda had claimed the Crimean bridge was impossible to attack because of 20 different kinds of security protecting it, including military dolphins
Speculation is mounting that a drone was used to blow up the bridge. This image handed out by the Russian Ministry of Defence shows what was claimed to be a mystery Ukrainian drone found near Crimea
The 12-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov opened in 2018 and is the longest in Europe.
The £3.2billion project is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea and has provided an essential link to the peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Crimea holds symbolic value for Russia and is key to sustaining its military operations in southern Ukraine. While Russia seized areas north of Crimea early on during the invasion and built a land corridor to it along the Sea of Azov, Ukraine is pressing a counteroffensive to reclaim them.
The Russian Defence Ministry said troops in the south were receiving necessary supplies through the land corridor and by sea. The Energy Ministry said Crimea has enough fuel for 15 days and it was working on ways to replenish stock.
The bridge has train and road sections. The blast and fire caused the collapse of one of the two links of the road bridge, while another link was intact.
Russia has released this picture of Samir Yusubov, 25, believed to be the truck’s owner
The Russian Transport Ministry said train traffic across the bridge would start again shortly after quick repair works.
Vehicle traffic resumed on Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that remained intact from the blast, with the flow alternating in each direction and vehicles undergoing a ‘full inspection procedure,’ Crimea’s Russia-backed regional leader, Sergey Aksyonov, wrote on Telegram.
Rail traffic was resuming slowly. Two passenger trains departed from the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol and headed toward the bridge on Saturday evening. Passenger ferry links between Crimea and the Russian mainland were being relaunched Sunday.
Mr Putin was informed about the explosion and ordered the creation of a government panel to deal with the emergency.
The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament blamed Ukraine for the explosion, but downplayed the severity of the damage and said the bridge would be promptly repaired.
Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, said ‘consequences will be imminent’ if Ukraine is responsible.
Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, which is nominally in the opposition but votes in line with Kremlin wishes in parliament, said the ‘terror attack’ should serve as a wake-up call.
‘The long-overdue measures haven’t been taken yet, the special operation must be turned into a counterterrorist operation,’ he said.
Sergei Mironov, head of the Just Russia faction in parliament, said Moscow should respond by attacking key Ukrainian infrastructure including power plants, bridges and railways.
The parliamentary leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party on Saturday stopped short of claiming Kyiv was responsible but appeared to cast it as a consequence of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.
‘Russian illegal construction is starting to fall apart and catch fire. The reason is simple: if you build something explosive, then sooner or later it will explode,’ David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People party, wrote on Telegram.
The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, tweeted a video with the Kerch Bridge on fire alongside Marilyn Monroe singing her famous Happy Birthday, Mr President.
Pictures in the aftermath of the explosion show the devastation it caused on the crucial road and rail bridge
Later this morning, smoke could still be seen billowing out over the sea as the bridge was closed to all traffic
The fire could still be seen burning from miles away from a suspected fuel tank on a train was hit by the explosion
The road section of the Kerch Bridge was severely damaged by the blast – it is not known how long it could take to repair
A helicopter was used to drop water in an effort to extinguish the flames on the bridge earlier this morning
People posed for photos with a giant postage stamp of the bridge on fire today following the explosion
The blast has been welcomed by many in Ukraine as the latest blow against Putin’s regime as his forces continue to suffer setbacks
The blast on the bridge occurred hours after explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early on Saturday, sending plumes of smoke into the sky and triggering a series of secondary explosions.
Ukrainian officials accused Russia of pounding Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with surface-to-air missiles and said at least one person was wounded. The strikes targeted two largely residential neighbourhoods, the regional governor, Oleh Sinehubov, said.
Huge queues appeared at petrol stations in Crimea in the wake of the bridge’s destruction, soon after the Russian puppet authorities said there was petrol for 40 days. Other sources said there was only 15 days of fuel as panic buyers queued for hours.
Locals were also rationed to 3kg of essential groceries amid fears for supplies, according to reports on the peninsula.
A video shows a Russian man in Crimea saying: ‘We’ve had a good life, but it was short-lived. The ways [of escape] are now cut off.’
Pro-Putin military correspondent Yuri Kotyonok joined a wave of demands for overwhelming Russian attacks on Ukraine. He said: ‘The answer for blowing up the bridge should be crushing. The question is not about revenge, but about punishment and our capacity as a state responding to terrorist attacks. The Crimean Bridge will certainly be restored. I hope that they will do it promptly – within a few months. He asked for answers on why ‘targets in Kyiv are still intact’.
Yuri Podolyaka, a popular pro-Rus blogger, said: ‘It looks like this is the prelude to the main strike of the Ukrainians in the south. If over the next few days Ukraine does not plunge into darkness and strikes are not carried out on the bridges across the Dnieper, I personally will consider it a sign of an [epic failure].’
Vladimir Rogov, chairman of ‘We are Together with Russia’ movement, and a key official in occupied Ukraine, said: ‘The Crimean bridge has been blown up. Both the road and railway lines have been cut. The [Ukraine] terrorist entity must be destroyed.’
He published exact map coordinates of targets he wanted hit in Ukraine.
Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said the early-morning explosions were the result of missile strikes in the centre of the city. He added that the blasts sparked fires at one of the city’s medical institutions and a non-residential building. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Russian officials said they faced an ’emergency’ on the bridge with the train on fire. A Russian Telegram channel said: ‘It is likely that an improvised explosive device hidden in any of the passing vehicles was detonated.’
Oleg Kryuchkov, aide to the Kremlin-appointed head of annexed Crimea, said: ‘According to preliminary information, a fuel storage tank is on fire…. Navigable arches were not damaged. It is too early to speak about causes and consequences. Work to extinguish the blaze is under way.’
Russian-controlled Crimean Railways said: ‘A fuel tank at the tail of a freight train caught fire. The locomotive with some carriages was brought to Kerch station.’
Ukraine in recent days has grown more ambitious in its predictions that it will retake Crimea – annexed by Russia in 2014.
Rybar, a pro-Russian Telegram channel reported: ‘There was an explosion at around 6am on one of the sections of the Crimean Bridge. According to official reports, a fuel tanker caught fire. Road services and the Emergencies Ministry are working at the scene of the fire and traffic has been temporarily suspended.
‘However, photos and video footage show one of the vehicles being put out of action, which in no way could have happened due to a simple fire. It is likely that an improvised explosive device hidden in any of the passing vehicles was detonated.’
Pro-Kremlin war reporter Andrey Rudenko asked: ‘What kind of power did the explosion have to for a span of the bridge to go under water? It is quite possible to assume that the main explosion was underwater. At the beginning of the year, there were reports that the West had supplied Ukraine with underwater kamikaze drones.’
Vladimir Rogov, chairman of ‘We are Together with Russia’ movement, and a key official in occupied Ukraine, said: ‘The [Ukraine] terrorist entity must be destroyed.’
Army General Sergey Surovikin is reported to have taken charge of Putin’s war in Ukraine after a series of setbacks for Russian since it invaded in February
The British Ministry of Defence said in June: ‘For over thirty years, Surovikin’s (right) career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality’
Ukraine has been launching a successful counter-offensive against Russia in the last few weeks, claiming miles of territory
Ukraine has won back hundreds of settlements and miles of territory as it pushes back against Russian forces in the east of the country