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UK intel: Russia’s repaired Kerch Bridge faces continued traffic restrictions for trucks, fuel supplies

Following Ukraine’s attacks, Russia has mended the pivotal Kerch Strait Bridge. However, according to UK intelligence, some traffic limitations remain due to previous incidents.
Illegally contructed Kerch Strait Brigde. Illustrative photo: rosavtodor.ru
UK intel: Russia’s repaired Kerch Bridge faces continued traffic restrictions for trucks, fuel supplies

Russia claims it has repaired the Kerch Strait Bridge, damaged during Ukraine’s July 2023 strike, “ahead of schedule,” although traffic restrictions for trucks and fuel supplies remain due to prior Ukrainian attacks, the UK intelligence update notes, published by the British Defense Ministry on 19 October. 

The ministry tweeted:

  • On 14 October 2023, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin declared that damage from Ukraine’s July 2023 strike on the Crimean bridge had been repaired ahead of schedule. Although fully operational, use of the bridge remains restricted due to procedures enacted following the first Ukrainian attack in October 2022. Trucks and fuel supplies continue to be moved by ferry.
  • The Crimean bridge will remain a vital link in sustaining Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its forces in southern Ukraine. However, it is now almost certainly a significant security burden requiring multi-domain protection, including the use of air defence systems and crews who would otherwise be deployed elsewhere. Russian security forces confidence in their ability to protect this large and vulnerable structure will continue to be threatened by the ingenuity of Ukraine’s military and security services.

Crimea’s logistical key point

Currently, occupied Crimea has two major links to Russia: the Kerch Strait bridge, illegally constructed by Russia several years after it occupied the peninsula, and the “land bridge” across the Ukrainian coast of the Sea of Azov, which Russia captured early in its full-scale invasion in 2022. The so-called land bridge runs across the south of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts via Mariupol, Berdiansk, and Melitopol, including a highway and a railway line.

Russia started the illegal construction of what it calls the Crimean Bridge shortly after it occupied the Ukrainian peninsula to link Crimea to southern Russia across the Kerch Strait. The road part of this double parallel railroad-road bridge was completed in the spring 2018, while its rail bridge was inaugurated in late 2019. Opened in 2018, the road bridge rapidly became the main mode of transportation between Crimea and Russia, surpassing the Kerch Strait ferry. Up until the spring of 2022, the bridge remained Russia’s only land connection to occupied Crimea.

To impede Russian military logistics in Crimea and Ukraine’s south, the Ukrainian forces carry out regular attacks on the Kerch Strait Bridge, and other bridges and rail hubs in southern mainland Ukraine.

The bridge faced a series of Ukrainian attacks during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s a timeline of the events:

  • February 2022: Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities announced their plans to destroy the Crimean Bridge.
  • 8 October 2022: A massive explosion on the road bridge resulted in a portion of the road bridge collapsing and ignited a significant fire on the rail bridge.
  • 23 February 2023: After repairs, the Russian government declared the bridge’s road section fully operational again.
  • 5 May 2023: Announcement of the rail bridge’s full reopening.
  • 17 July 2023: The bridge experienced two significant explosions. The aftermath saw at least one section of the road bridge collapse, and rail services were immediately halted. Ukraine claimed responsibility for both the October 2022 and July 2023 attacks.
  • 12 August 2023: Russia claimed it repelled an attempted Ukrainian assault on the bridge, as Russian air defenders allegedly intercepted three Ukrainian S-200 missiles.
  • 14 October 2023: The bridge was reopened to both road and rail traffic.

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