Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of destroying the Kerch bridge, a key link between Russia and Crimea, in an explosion and called it an “act of terrorism”.
The strategic bridge was partly damaged in a “truck bomb” explosion on October 8, killing three people, setting several oil tankers on fire and collapsing two car lanes, as per Russian officials.
The explosion halted a viral supply route for Russian armed forces that have launched a renewed offensive to gain control of the territories reclaimed by Ukrainian forces. Road and rail traffic on the 19-km bridge was temporarily stopped and resumed within 12 hours.
“There is no doubt here, as you have just reported, that it was a terrorist act aimed at destroying critical civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” Putin said during an interaction with Alexander Bastrykin, the chairman of the committee investigating the explosion.
The Russian president further said that the Ukrainian special services were the initiators, performers and masterminds behind the explosion.
While briefing the president on the preliminary investigation results, Bastrykin said that the committee has established the route of the truck and identified the persons who took part in arranging its movements.
“The FSS field agents helped to identify suspects from among those who could have arranged the terrorist act and those who are active within the Russian Federation,” the investigator told Putin.
Bastrykin further said that the Russian investigators were trying to establish the exact purposes and tasks of the explosion.
“It is an act of terrorism. All our preliminary investigation data allow us to come to an unequivocal conclusion – this was a terrorist act which had been prepared by Ukrainian special services with the aim of destroying a large civil infrastructure facility of crucial importance to the Russian Federation, especially to Crimea.”
He also said that some citizens of Russia and other countries assisted the Ukrainian special forces to carry out the explosion.
President Putin is scheduled to convene a meeting of Russia’s security council on Monday. Earlier, deputy chairman of the council, Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow should kill the “terrorists” responsible for the attack.
Medvedev, who has served as the Russian president and prime minister, reportedly said: “Russia can only respond to this crime by directly killing terrorists, as is the custom elsewhere in the world. This is what Russian citizens expect.”
Following the attack, Russia has stepped up the security of the key infrastructure, including the Kerch bridge and the main gas pipeline from the southern Russian city of Krasnodar to the Crimea Peninsula.