Ukraine launched a bold new attempt overnight to blow up Russia’s £3m bridge connecting Moscow-annexed Crimea – forcing a temporary closure of the link for the third time in less than a year.
Three semi-submersible kamikaze naval drones were used in Ukraine’s latest attack on the bridge, Moscow said, claiming the missiles were intercepted and destroyed on the way to the bridge.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, one drone was destroyed late Friday and two others early Saturday. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.
The Kerch Bridge, a key supply route for Kremlin forces in the war with Ukraine, has been repeatedly attacked since Russia invaded Ukraine.
An explosion in October that Russian authorities said was caused by a truck bomb killed three people. In another attack in July, a couple died, their daughter was seriously injured and part of the road became dangerously stuck.
Flames rise from the Crimean Bridge connecting mainland Russia and annexed Crimea after a bomb caused a fire and a partial collapse of the bridge on October 8, 2022, according to Russian authorities
A view through a train window shows the section of a road split and sloping to the side after a suspected attack on the Crimean Bridge on July 17
The bridge between Crimea and Russia is of great logistical and psychological importance for Moscow, as it represents an important artery for military and civilian supplies and underpins the Kremlin’s control over the peninsula, which was annexed in 2014.
Ukraine has promised to continue trying to damage the border crossing beyond repair.
According to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, the unmanned kamikaze naval drones were attacked by ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet last night.
The crossing was closed and there were major traffic jams on both sides of the bridge.
One of the drones may have attempted to attack the Russian patrol ship Inquisitive, the Rybar Telegram channel claimed.
The maritime drone “tried to hide among the ships at anchor” in the Kerch Strait, but was discovered and exploded.
Russia boasted this week that it had increased its surveillance of drone activity around Crimea and used that to use naval aviation to thwart a Ukrainian attempt to land on the peninsula to carry out an attack.
“The Black Sea Fleet has established constant monitoring of the situation in the Black Sea through all types of reconnaissance,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Traffic begins in July after a specially Ukrainian-developed kamikaze drone called Sea Baby, loaded with 850kg of explosives, caused structural damage to the intersection
Black smoke rises from a fire on the Kerch Bridge that connects Crimea to Russia near Kerch on October 8, 2022
Moscow branded recent naval drone strikes as terrorism but did not use the same label to describe its attacks on Ukraine.
In October, a bomb hidden in a truck exploded on the bridge, causing extensive damage.
In July, a specially designed kamikaze drone called Sea Baby, loaded with 850 kg of explosives, caused structural damage to the intersection.
The latest attacks came in a week that saw record drone attacks on Russia, including a hit that destroyed two Il-76 transport planes and damaged two others in Pskov, near the country’s NATO border with Latvia and Estonia.
The Defense Ministry said two Ukrainian drones were also intercepted in the Russian region of Belgorod on the border with Ukraine.
A woman was injured on Saturday in shelling of a village in the Kursk region, which also borders Ukraine, said regional governor Roman Starovoit. He blamed Ukraine for the shelling.
The Ukrainian authorities, which generally do not comment on attacks on Russian soil, did not say whether they carried out the attacks themselves. Drone attacks and shelling in border regions are the order of the day.
The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that Russia had carried out four rocket attacks and 39 airstrikes, as well as 42 attacks with multiple rocket launchers, in the past 24 hours.
Cars drive on the Crimean Bridge connecting Russia and the Crimean Peninsula on the Kerch Strait on the Taman Peninsula in the Krasnodar Region of Russia, October 8, 2022
Workers repair the side of the damaged bridge sections of the road section of the Crimean Bridge connecting mainland Russia and the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait during restoration work on November 19, 2022
British military officials said on Saturday that Russia was risking splitting its forces to prevent a Ukrainian breakthrough in southern Ukraine.
According to British intelligence, Ukrainian forces continued to conduct offensive actions on the Orikhiv axis in southern Ukraine, with units reaching the first Russian line of defense.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Friday that Kiev’s troops were advancing into the Zaporizhia region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks next week, the Kremlin announced on Friday, just over six weeks after Moscow reneged on a deal negotiated by Ankara and the United Nations that allowed Ukrainian grain to to safely enter world markets despite the September 18-month war.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Erdogan would meet on Monday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Separately, Kiev claimed damage to four Su-30 fighter jets, one MiG-29 fighter jet, two Pantsir-S1 short-range air defense systems and a radar linked to an S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system have during a strike in Kursk with cardboard aerial drones.
Ukraine also claimed to have hit a key Russian factory near Moscow on Friday that makes electronics for Putin’s missiles. This attack was strongly denied by Russia.
Putin is boosting his own drone production. He promised to train a million drone operators – but acknowledged that may not be enough.
“We have a program until 2030, we need to train a million specialists in this area,” he said.
“Maybe that won’t be enough, because [the industry] is developing very quickly.’