Video: Kerch Strait Road Bridge Disabled by Ukrainian Attack

Russian soldiers collect debris from the scene of the blast (Russian Ministry of Defense)
Russian soldiers collect debris from the scene of the blast (Russian Ministry of Defense)

Published Jul 17, 2023 2:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the early hours of Monday morning, Ukrainian forces struck and damaged the Russian-built bridge over the Kerch Strait for the second time in 10 months. 

The latest strike has been attributed to an explosives-laden drone boat, and Russia has blamed the damage on Ukrainian special forces. In a rare decision, Ukraine has claimed responsibility for carrying out the attack. Two civilian deaths have been reported. 

The blast appears to have displaced two span sections of the highway bridge from their supports, closing both of the road bridge's lanes to vehicle traffic. One of the span sections is heavily twisted and leaning off towards the water. The damage to the other span is less severe, but satellite imagery provided by Maxar shows that one end has shifted horizontally by several feet. Videos taken by first responders shows that it has also dropped by as much as a foot. 

According to the Kremlin, the most heavily damaged lane cannot be repaired and will have to be replaced. This should be completed in November. The lane that was displaced slightly will be back in service by mid-September, and will carry two-way traffic on a temporary basis. The adjacent rail bridge sustained slight damage to one track, but service on the other track has already resumed. Some passengers on the reopened rail route filmed the road bridge as they went by, providing an early look at the extent of the damage.

The Kerch Strait Bridge is a strategic military resupply route for Russian forces in occupied provinces of Crimea and Zaporizhzhia, and the damage to the roadway may force munitions truck traffic onto a cross-strait ferry service adjacent to the bridge. The alternative is a longer road route on the occupied "land bridge" through Mariupol and Melitopol, closer to the front lines. 

The bridge is also a potent symbol of Russian ambitions and national pride. Russian President Vladimir Putin personally inaugurated the structure when it opened in 2018, and it serves as a 12-mile-long reminder of Russian claims to the Crimean peninsula. It physically connects Crimea's economy to Russia and enables Russian citizens to transit easily to and from. Equally as much as its strategic importance, its symbolic value makes it a target for Ukraine, both for morale at home and for messaging abroad. 

In further apparent symbolism, the blast occurred on the ninth anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which a Dutch court has blamed on Russian militants. The bridge attack also occurred just hours before an expected blow for Ukraine: later that morning, Russia confirmed its long-expected decision to reinstitute a "dangerous" zone for grain bulkers in the northwestern Black Sea, threatening the largest route for Ukrainian food exports.