Russian officials say multiple missiles were shot down over the crucial bridge connecting the annexed Crimea to the mainland on Saturday, the latest in a series of apparent Ukrainian attacks in the region.
The bridge is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pet projects and has frequently been targeted as a hated symbol of occupation.
Two Ukrainian missiles were shot down on Saturday afternoon, the Russia-appointed Head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov wrote in a post on Telegram, adding that the bridge was undamaged.
An update from Aksyonov said later Saturday that another Ukrainian missile had been shot down in the area.
“Another enemy missile was shot down over the Kerch Strait. Thank you to our air defense troops for their high professionalism and vigilance!” Aksyonov wrote on Telegram.
Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Russian-appointed Head of Crimea, said special services put up a “smoke screen,” which are used to conceal any damage caused.
Russia’s defense ministry also said earlier Saturday that its forces had destroyed 20 Ukrainian drones launched at the peninsula overnight.
Following the attempted strikes, Russia’s foreign ministry condemned Ukraine for what it described as a “terrorist attack.”
“The Crimean bridge is an object of purely civilian infrastructure, attacks on which are unacceptable. It has been subjected to such attacks since the autumn of last year, which also led to the death of civilians,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
“Such barbaric actions cannot be justified and will not go unanswered,” Zakharova continued.
Meanwhile, traffic has resumed on the Crimean bridge, according to the Crimean bridge operative information Telegram account, after it was temporarily blocked.
The Crimean bridge is a vital artery for supplying Russia’s war on Ukraine, allowing people and goods to flow into the Ukrainian territories that Moscow has occupied in the south and east of the country.
Also known as the Kerch Bridge, it holds personal value for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the Kremlin narrative it marks the “reunification” of Crimea with the Russian mainland.
In October, the bridge was partially destroyed when a fuel tanker exploded and damaged a large section of the road. The Kremlin was quick to blame Kyiv for that explosion, and Putin alleged that it was an act of “sabotage” by Ukrainian security services.
Last week the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) Vasyl Maliuk said that any explosions that happen to Russian ships or the Crimean bridge are “an absolutely logical and effective step.”
Maliuk said that if the Russians wanted such explosions to stop “they have the only option to do so – to leave the territorial waters of Ukraine and our land.”