The explosion that rocked the Crimea bridge, also known as the Kerch bridge, linking Russia-occupied Crimea to the mainland Saturday was termed as an “act of terrorism” by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, using it as justification to carrying out 80-odd missiles and rockets strikes on key infrastructure facilities in Ukraine on Monday.
However, the mystery continues over who bombed the bridge and how.
Already humiliated by heavy losses on the battlefront in Ukraine, Moscow quickly arrived at the theory the explosion was a terrorist attack using a massive amount of explosives hidden in a truck and detonated when the vehicle crossed the bridge toward Crimea.
While Kyiv remained tight-lipped about Saturday’s explosion, in a video posted Sunday on the Kremlin’s Telegram channel, Russian President Putin said: “There is no doubt. This is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure.”
“This was devised, carried out and ordered by the Ukrainian special services,” he said.
However, given its scale and ingenuity, military experts and analysts have put forward several theories from missiles to underwater attack as a cause for the explosion.
An analysis in CNN picks holes in the truck bomb narrative presented by Moscow, arguing it was unclear how a truck bomb would cause two separate spans of the westbound lanes to collapse into the Kerch Strait.
Considering that the force of such a truck blast would have mostly gone upwards and outwards, the CNN report points out the way the spans collapsed implies the force of the blast came from below.
The CNN analysis quotes Chris Cobb-Smith, a British army veteran, and analyst with the research group Forensic Architecture saying: “I don’t believe a truck bomb could have caused this level of damage. This would have entailed a suicide bomber driver, unheard of in the context of this conflict.”
Given that images and video from the scene are inconclusive, and considering the Kerch bridge is about 150 miles from the nearest Ukrainian positions, beyond the range of Western supplied weapons, the CNN report citing analysts says a missile fired by drones, or that an underwater sabotage team that had fixed charges to the bridge’s support structure may have caused the explosion.
Further, the terror attack narrative helps the Russian military avoid the embarrassment of having “to explain why its multi-layered defenses around the bridge failed,” and at the same time offering Moscow a “justification for the massive escalation of attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.”
Since the Russian invasion, several Ukrainian officials have publicly asserted the bridge was a legitimate target. In June, a Ukrainian military official Major General Dmytro Marchenko had termed the Kerch bridge as the “number one target,”
“This is no secret to their military or our military. Neither for their civilians nor for our civilians. This will be the number one target to hit. It’s as if the main gut tightening reserves just have to be cut off. As soon as this intestine is cut off, they will begin to panic,” he said.
Earlier in April, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, said that if the opportunity arises, the bridge across the Kerch Strait, built by Russia after the occupation of Crimea, will be struck.
Meanwhile, one of President Zelensky’s most senior advisers, Mikhailo Podolyak, suggested on Twitter the Russians caused the explosion themselves, due to the internal power struggle between Russia’s Security Service and Defense Ministry. Officially, the Ukrainian government is saying nothing: its Secret Service has said it will remain quiet until after the war. Zelensky himself has so far refrained from commenting on the attack, except to say the “weather has been cloudy in Crimea.”