- Two parents dead, girl injured
- Putin’s prestige project damaged again
- Russia blames Ukrainian security forces
- Ukrainian media says Ukraine organised attack
- Russian lawmaker: no grain deal after attack
KERCH, Crimea, July 17 (Reuters) – Two people were killed and their daughter was wounded on Monday in what Russia said was an Ukrainian attack on the Crimean Bridge, an artery for Russian troops fighting in Ukraine and a prestige project personally opened by President Vladimir Putin.
Blasts were reported before dawn on the 19-km (12-mile) road and rail bridge linking Russia to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Unverified imagery showed a section of road on the bridge had split and listing to one side with metal barriers buckled. Dash cam footage showed drivers braking sharply shortly after the incident. Traffic was halted.
Russian officials said Ukraine was behind what they called a “terrorist” attack on the bridge – on the same day that Putin must decide whether or not to extend a UN-brokered deal that allows the export of grain via the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian military suggested the attack could be some kind of provocation by Russia itself but Ukrainian media cited unidentified sources as saying that Ukraine’s Security Service was behind the incident.
The parents of a girl were killed and their daughter was injured in a passenger car. The girl was being treated in intensive care.
“The girl was injured,” Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region, said in a message on the Telegram messaging app. “The hardest thing is that her parents died, dad and mum.”
“No words can calm the pain of loss here,” he said.
Russian prosecutors said Ukrainian security services were behind the attack – which they cast as terrorism.
Russia blamed Ukraine for an attack on the bridge last October, saying it was organised by Ukrainian military intelligence and its director, Kyrylo Budanov. Ukraine admitted only indirectly to the attack months later.
After the October attack, Russia launched strikes against Ukrainian cities including power supplies in retaliation. Putin ordered the bridge repaired and even drove a Mercedes across it.
GRAIN AND WAR
It was not immediately clear what the incident on the bridge would mean for the U.N.-brokered deal that allows the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters.
The U.N. deal is due to expire on Monday, with the last ship to travel under the deal leaving the port of Odesa early on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness and MarineTraffic.com.
Sergei Mironov, leader of the A Just Russia party in Russia’s parliament, said Moscow should respond by destroying Ukrainian infrastructure.
“That is what we need to do, and not discuss a grain deal that helps Kyiv’s rulers and their Western masters line their pockets. There can be no grain deal after another terrorist attack,” he said on Telegram.
Russia agreed a year ago to sign the Black Sea grain deal which allowed Ukraine to resume shipping food from its southern ports despite the war.
Serious damage to the bridge would undermine Russian supply lines while potentially stranding tens of thousand of Russian tourists in Crimea.
The bridge, Europe’s longest, was built by a company controlled by Putin ally Arkady Rotenberg. Putin has long lauded the project, boasting at one point that Russian Tsars and Soviet leaders had dreamed of building it but never did.
The Crimean peninsula has long been a cherished vacation destination for Russians, especially after Moscow launched its invasion on Ukraine in 2022 and travelling to the West became much more difficult for Russians.
Crimea was transferred from Soviet Russia to Soviet Ukraine in 1954 by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and recognised by Russia in 1994 after the collapse of the USSR. Ukraine has vowed to return Crimea.
Footage taken from a train crossing the bridge showed passengers gasping as they saw the damage to the road.
“It is just awful! It is crazy,” said one of the passengers.
In recent weeks, traffic jams to the entrance of the bridge went for kilometres on a daily basis as Russians went on holiday.
On Monday morning, the traffic jam ran for kilometres before police directed vehicles away from the bridge. Social media accounts showed cars lined up on the bridge and its entrance.
The Russian-backed administration of the Crimean peninsula urged residents not to travel via the bridge.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson, said Russian tourists would be able to travel overland via the Russian-controlled regions of southern Ukraine to Crimea.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne and Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow; Editing by Kim Coghill, Michael Perry, Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie
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