Explosion damages Kerch bridge linking Crimea to Russia

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An explosion on the Kerch road-and-rail bridge, the sole land link between Crimea and Russia, set oil tankers ablaze and caused the collapse of two car lanes, Russian authorities said Saturday. The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has lost its external power connection as a result of Russian shelling and is relying on backup diesel generators, Ukraine’s state nuclear company said. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT + 2). 

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6:59pm: Putin orders more security for Crimea bridge, energy supplies, says Interfax

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered tighter security for the bridge from Russia to Crimea as well as the infrastructure supplying electricity and natural gas to the peninsula, Interfax said.

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.

6:46pm: Russia transport ministry says trains can start using Crimean bridge again

Trains can once again start using a road-and-rail bridge between Russia and Crimea after it was damaged in an explosion earlier, Russia’s transport ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

6:26pm: Trains resume on Crimea bridge hit by blast, says Russian operator

Rail traffic on a bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland resumed after a blast damaged the structure on Saturday, its operator said in a statement.

Grand Service Express, which operates services between Crimea and Russia, said two trains left the peninsula in the early evening for Moscow and Saint Petersburg. 

“The trains will pass over the Crimean bridge,” the company said on Telegram.

3:22pm: Russia appoints new general to lead Ukraine offensive after setbacks

Russia on Saturday appointed a new general to lead its Ukraine offensive after Moscow suffered a series of military setbacks that triggered criticism of army leadership. 

The Russian defence ministry said General Sergey Surovikin had been appointed as the “commander of the Joint Grouping of Forces in the areas of the special military operation”, using the Kremlin’s term for the invasion of Ukraine. 


2:30pm: Shelling that cut power to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘irresponsible’, says IAEA

Overnight shelling that cut the power line supplying cooling systems at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was “tremendously irresponsible”, the UN atomic watchdog said on Saturday, calling again for a protection zone around the plant.

“The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement, quoting IAEA chief Rafael Grossi. The watchdog confirmed that the plant is now relying on diesel backup generators.

Grossi will visit Russia and Ukraine “soon” to discuss setting up a protection zone at the plant.

2:00pm: Crimea bridge blast damages Russian supply route and gives Ukraine a symbolic victory

The explosion on the Kerch bridge early on October 8, 2022, damaged a major supply route for Russian military personnel and civilians living in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014. The damage to the bridge, which President Vladimir Putin inaugurated by driving a truck across in 2018, also amounts to a symbolic victory for Ukraine. 

FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent reports.


1:49pm: Three killed by the explosion on Kerch bridge, Russian investigators say

Russian investigators on Saturday said three people were killed when a truck exploded on the bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to the mainland, adding that the owner of the vehicle had been identified.

“According to preliminary information, three people were killed,” Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement.

It said they were likely to be “passengers of a car that was near the truck that exploded”.

The statement said the bodies of two victims – a man and a woman – had been lifted from the water. It said their identities were being confirmed, giving no details on the third body.

Investigators said a resident of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region was the owner of the car. “An investigation has been launched at his place of residence,” the investigators said.

10:54am: Car bomb causes partial collapse of Kerch bridge, Moscow says 

Russian news agencies reported that a car bomb ignited a huge fire on the Kerch bridge, Russia’s sole land link with Crimea, territory that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia authorities said the blast set ablaze seven oil tankers being transported by train and caused the collapse of two car lanes of the giant road-and-rail structure. 

“Today at 6:07am (0307 GMT) on the road traffic side of the Crimean bridge … a car bomb exploded, setting fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea,” Russian news agencies cited the national anti-terrorism committee as saying. 

The anti-terrorism committee has opened a criminal probe into the explosion and sent detectives to the scene.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the bridge in 2018 following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move that resulted in Western sanctions and a deterioration in ties.

Dramatic social media footage showed the bridge on fire with parts plunging into the sea.  

The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak, took to Twitter to post a picture of a long section of the bridge half-submerged in the water. 

 “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning,” he wrote. “Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.” 


9:27am: Zaporizhzhia plant cut off from power supply due to shelling, Ukrainian nuclear company says

Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant lost its connection to an external power supply early on Saturday as a result of Russian shelling, Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said. 

Energoatom said the plant was now getting power to cover its needs from its backup diesel generators.

“The diesel generators started automatically. The available supplies of diesel fuel for their operation in this mode will be enough for 10 days,” the company wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

9:15am: Russian forces reinforcing some defensive positions in Kherson region

Russian forces are digging new trenches and reinforcing defensive positions around the area of Nova Kakhovka, a city in the southern Kherson region, according to Ukrainian military command.

FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports.


 

9:10am: Russia says car bomb caused fire on Kerch bridge in Crimea

A car bomb sparked a giant fire on a bridge linking Crimea to Russia, Moscow said Saturday.

“Today at 6:07am (0307 GMT) on the road traffic side of the Crimean bridge … a car bomb exploded, setting fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea,” Russian news agencies cited the national anti-terrorism committee as saying. 

Russian news agencies cited a Kremlin spokesman as saying President Vladmir Putin has ordered the establishment of a commission to look into the blast. 

The road-and-rail bridge, built on Putin’s orders and inaugurated in 2018, is a key transport link for carrying military equipment to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, especially in the south, as well as ferrying troops across.

Spanning the Kerch Strait, it is the only land crossing between Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and Russia.

 

8:32am: Ukraine authorities find mass grave in recaptured eastern town of Lyman

Ukrainian authorities have found a mass grave in the recently liberated eastern town of Lyman but it is unclear how many bodies it holds, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in an online post on Friday.

Separately, the Ukrinform news agency cited a senior police official as saying the grave contained 180 bodies. Ukrainian troops retook Lyman, in the Donetsk region, from Russian control on October 1.

Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram that officials in Lyman had found “a mass grave where, according to local information, there could be both soldiers and civilians. The exact number is yet to be ascertained.”

He said a second burial site with 200 graves had also been found, containing the bodies of civilians. It was not clear from his comments how or when they had died.

Last month the bodies of 436 people were exhumed from a burial site in the northeastern town of Izium after it was liberated. Most appeared to have died violent deaths, local officials said.

Ukrainian authorities have regularly accused Russian troops of committing atrocities in occupied territories. Moscow denies the claims.  

8:16am: US stockpiles of some military equipment ‘reaching minimum levels’ after supplying Ukraine

The United States may soon be unable to provide Ukraine with certain types of ammunition that are critical to Kyiv’s battle against Russia’s invasion as supplies are being used up faster than they can be replaced.

Washington has become by far the largest supplier of arms to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, with more than $16.8 billion in military assistance provided since the start of the invasion. 

But US stockpiles of some equipment are “reaching the minimum levels needed for war plans and training”, and restocking to pre-invasion levels could take years, Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in a recent analysis.

Washington is “learning lessons” from the conflict about ammunition needs in a great power war, which are “far greater” than expected, a US military official acknowledged on condition of anonymity.

Some US-provided equipment has become emblematic of the war in Ukraine, such as Javelin anti-tank weapons, which were widely used by Kyiv’s forces to blunt the Russian advance on the capital, and HIMARS, a precision rocket system now playing a key role in counteroffensives against Moscow’s troops in the east and south.

But US stocks of ammunition for HIMARS – which fires GPS-guided rockets known as GMLRS with a range of more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) – are dwindling.

“If the United States sent one-third of that inventory to Ukraine (as has been the case with the Javelin), Ukraine would receive 8,000 to 10,000 rockets. That inventory would likely last several months, but, when the inventory is exhausted, there are no alternatives,” said Cancian, who previously worked on weapons procurement for the US government.

“Production is about 5,000 a year. Although the United States is working to increase that amount, and money has recently been allocated for that purpose, it will take years,” he said, adding that older equipment could help fill the gap.

8:07am: IMF announces $1.3 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced Friday it will provide $1.3 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine through its new food crisis assistance programme.

The package will help meet Ukraine’s “urgent balance of payment needs … while playing a catalytic role for future financial support from Ukraine’s creditors and donors”, the IMF said in a statement. 

“The scale and intensity of Russia’s war against Ukraine that started more than seven months ago have caused tremendous human suffering and economic pain … Real GDP is projected to contract by 35 percent in 2022 relative to 2021 and financing needs remain very large.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the IMF for the emergency aid. “The money will go to Ukraine today,” he said Friday on Twitter, thanking the crisis lender’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, and its executive board.

The IMF also said Ukrainian authorities “deserve considerable credit for having maintained an important degree of macro-financial stability in these extremely challenging circumstances”.

Last week, the World Bank granted Ukraine $530 million in additional aid to “meet urgent needs created by Russia’s invasion”. The bank said it had already mobilised almost $13 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, $11 billion of which has already been disbursed.

The US Congress approved a new $12.3 billion aid package for Ukraine also on Friday, including $3.7 billion in military equipment. The United States has given a total of $65 billion in aid to Kyiv since Russia invaded in February.

7:31am: Photo shows ‘significant damage’ to road section of bridge linking Crimea and Russia 

A fuel tank was on fire on the Kerch bridge in Crimea early on Saturday, Russia’s RIA state news agency said, while Ukraine’s media reported an explosion.

Traffic was suspended on the road-and-rail bridge, opened in 2018 and designed to link Crimea into Russia’s transport network.

“A fuel tank is on fire on one of the sections of the Crimean bridge,” the agency said, citing a regional official but without stating the cause. “The shipping arches are not damaged.”

Ukrainian media said the blast on the bridge happened at about 6am (0300 GMT). 

Reporting from central Ukraine, FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg said: “I’ve seen two photos showing [the fire], one showing significant damage to the road section of the bridge.” 

“We don’t yet have any information as to how that damage was sustained, but we do know that many Ukrainians have dreamed, and this includes high-ranking officials, very vocally, about the possibility of destroying or damaging that bridge,” Cragg said. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the bridge in 2018 following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move that resulted in Western sanctions and a deterioration in ties.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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