A fuel tank exploded early Saturday on Europe’s longest bridge, which links Russia to the annexed territory of Crimea, according to Russian state media RIA and social media footage.
Images of the Kerch bridge posted on social media appear to show a portion of the roadway of the vehicle and rail bridge had fallen into the waters below it. Flames are seen burning from rail cars above.
The tanker was located on the 19-kilometer (11 mile) long bridge – strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.
The source of the explosion remains unclear.
In an interview in August, a senior Ukrainian military commander said the Kerch bridge was a legitimate target.
“This is a necessary measure in order to deprive them (Russia) of the opportunity to provide reserves and reinforce their troops from Russian territory,” Maj. Gen. Dmytro Marchenko said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.
Work is “underway to extinguish the fire,” the adviser to the Russian administration head of occupied Crimea, Oleg Kryunchkov, said in a Telegram post, adding that the bridge’s “shipping arches were not damaged.”
The Kerch bridge is able to handle 40,000 cars a day and to move 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year, state news agency RIA Novosti reported when the bridge opened in 2018.
After the bridge opened, the United States condemned its construction as illegal.
“Russia’s construction of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia’s ongoing willingness to flout international law,” a US State Department statement said.
“The bridge represents not only an attempt by Russia to solidify its unlawful seizure and its occupation of Crimea, but also impedes navigation by limiting the size of ships that can transit the Kerch Strait, the only path to reach Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Sea of Azov.”
This is a developing story. More to follow.