In a major blow for Russia, authorities reported on Saturday that a large blaze erupted on the only bridge linking mainland Russia to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Russian state-backed media cited the national anti-terrorism committee as saying that a truck exploded on the road traffic side of the Kerch bridge at 6:07 a.m. local time. President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered a "government commission" to examine the Kerch Bridge "emergency" in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported.
The blaze reportedly set fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea, causing a portion of the roadway of the vehicle and rail bridge to fall into the waters below it. Surveillance camera footage circulating on social media captures the moment the truck bomb is detonated, engulfing the bridge in flames.
Other clips show the extent of the damage caused by the explosion. One shows raging flames emerging from the rail cars while another reveals a collapsed portion of the road way.
What is the Kerch Bridge?
The Kerch bridge is one of Russian President Putin's prestige projects. It was built shortly after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014 to support its claims to the territory. The 19-kilometer (12-mile) crossing is a pair of road and rail bridges that Moscow uses to move military equipment into Ukraine.
The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, on which sit key Ukrainian ports, including Mariupol. For Russia, the bridge symbolizes the physical "reunification" of Crimea with the Russian mainland.
Ukraine Says Crimean Bridge Explosion was 'The Beginning'
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that the damage was "the beginning," although stopped short of claiming Kyiv was responsible. "Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled," Podolyak said via Twitter.
The official Twitter account of the Ukrainian government, meanwhile, appeared to respond to the incident by tweeting, "sick burn."