Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused Ukraine of carrying out a deadly explosion that damaged the only bridge linking Russia and Crimea, calling the blast—which Ukraine hasn’t directly taken responsibility for—an “act of terrorism,” as Putin steps up invasion efforts in Ukraine and as Russia’s rhetoric grows more dire.
In a video address posted to the Kremlin’s Telegram channel Sunday, Putin said there is “no doubt” that the Ukrainian special services carried out the attack on the bridge, which he said was “an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure,” according to a translation by Reuters.
Putin was meeting with the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, who presented the findings of an inquiry into the bridge’s explosion.
The bridge, which carries vehicle and train traffic across the Kerch Strait between mainland Russia and Crimea, was erected six years ago and serves as a symbol of Russia’s widely condemned 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
Throughout the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been accused of deliberately striking civilian targets like shopping malls and residential blocks, and reporters and investigators have documented widespread civilian killings in Russian-occupied parts of the country. In April, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said plans to “brutalize” Ukrainian civilians came from the “highest levels” of the Kremlin, all the way up to Putin himself, and President Joe Biden has suggested Russia’s actions amount to genocide. Russia has repeatedly denied allegations of targeting civilians.
Three people traveling in a car were killed in the blast after a truck exploded on the bridge, Russian officials said Saturday. While Putin cast the explosion as an attempt to damage civilian infrastructure, the bridge also serves as an integral component of the supply route used by Russian forces in southern Ukraine, and it connects Russia with the home base of its Black Sea fleet. The bridge partially reopened hours after the explosion to allow for some trains and light traffic. The deadly blast comes as Putin steps up invasion efforts after Russian forces were forced to retreat and give up territory in the eastern Kharkiv region. In recent weeks, Putin called up reserve troops, annexed Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine and even hinted at being willing to use nuclear weapons, leading Biden to warn the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest level since the Cuban missile crisis. Ukrainian forces have struck Crimea in the past.