What is the Kerch bridge and why is it important?
A portion of the Kerch Strait bridge, which connects the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, collapsed on Saturday after a truck exploded and ignited several fuel tanks in a passing train.
The damage to the bridge briefly shut down the key Russian supply route. However, beyond its strategic importance, the Kerch bridge has substantial symbolic significance for the annexed region of Crimea and Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his plans to build the 12-mile road-and-rail bridge soon after he seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and Putin himself personally inaugurated the bridge when it opened in 2018, driving across in an orange dump truck.
The bridge is widely disliked by Ukrainians, who view it as a symbol of Russian occupation. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense celebrated the destruction to the “notorious” Russian symbol on Saturday, comparing it to the sinking of Russia’s flagship missile cruiser earlier in the war.
“The guided missile cruiser Moskva and the Kerch Bridge – two notorious symbols of [R]ussian power in Ukrainian Crimea – have gone down,” the ministry wrote on Twitter. “What’s next in line…?”
A top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, also used the moment to emphasize that “everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.” Podolyak has previously said that Ukraine will not participate in negotiations with Russia until it leaves Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.
Putin’s recent annexation of four southern and eastern Ukrainian territories has largely mirrored his annexation of Crimea eight years ago. After taking control of the peninsula by force, Russia held a referendum in Crimea and signed an accession treaty to formally annex the region.
The Russian president used virtually the same game plan to annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson at the end of last month.