Putin humiliated as terrified Russian officials shut down Crimea bridge and flee overnight

Russian ammunition depot destroyed in Crimea

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The Crimean Bridge, which is also known as the Kerch Bridge, links the Russian mainland to the peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014. Some Russians dubbed the road and rail structure “Putin’s bridge” as it was designed to link Crimea to Russia’s transport network.

Tensions are running high in Crimea which has been the target of a number of attacks in recent weeks with air and military bases targeted.

Ukrainian TV channel 24 claimed yesterday (August 16) that Moscow had ordered the Crimean Bridge shut overnight out of fears of an attack from Ukraine, according to the Kyiv Post.

The newspaper cites unnamed sources as saying local Russian officials were expected to flee the peninsula on Tuesday night.

Kyiv Post said in a tweet: “According to the Ukrainian 24 channel, Russia shut down the Kerch bridge in Crimea until 6 a.m tomorrow, fearing a possible strike from Ukraine.

“The channel’s sources say that the local Russian officials will flee the peninsula tonight.”

It comes as Russia blamed saboteurs for explosions at one of its military bases in Crimea while Kyiv hinted it was responsible.

Ukrainian officials said their strategy was to destroy supply lines supporting Russia’s invasion.

The blasts on Tuesday engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the north of the peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.

Plumes of smoke were later seen at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, according to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

The action followed last week’s explosions at a Russian military air base in western Crimea which destroyed eight warplanes.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said yesterday’s explosions at the ammo dump were “a result of sabotage”.

The Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and the base for its Black Sea fleet.

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Ukraine did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosions though its officials openly cheered Russia’s setbacks there.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak and Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak both hailed the attacks as “demilitarisation” in an apparent mocking reference to the term Russia uses to justify its invasion.

Mr Yermak wrote on Telegram: “Operation ‘demilitarisation’ in the precise style of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will continue until the complete de-occupation of Ukraine’s territories.”

Mr Podolyak told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that Ukraine’s strategy was to destroy Russian “logistics, supply lines and ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure”.

He added: “It’s creating a chaos within their own forces.”

As Kyiv considers a potential counter-offensive in the south, the explosions raised the prospect of new dynamics in the six-month-old war if Ukraine now has capability to strike deeper in Russian-occupied territory or pro-Kyiv groups are having success with guerrilla-style attacks.

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to steer clear of Russian military bases and ammo stores, saying the explosions could have a number of causes, including incompetence.

He said: “But they all mean the same thing – the destruction of the occupiers’ logistics, their ammunition, military and other equipment, and command posts, saves the lives of our people.”

In Tuesday’s blasts, an electricity substation also caught fire, according to footage on Russian state TV.

Russia’s RIA news agency said seven trains were delayed and rail traffic on part of the line in northern Crimea had been suspended.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Government has ordered mass evacuations in the eastern region of Donetsk, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting.

Attention has also focused in recent days on shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, Europe’s largest, in a Russian-occupied area of southeastern Ukraine.

Russian-installed officials there, quoted by Interfax news agency, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces shelled the city of Enerhodar where the plant is located.

They accused Ukraine of doing so to provoke Russia into returning fire.

Later on Tuesday, 20 Russian rockets and 10 artillery rounds hit the city of Nikopol on the Ukrainian government-controlled bank of the Dnipro river across from Enerhodar, according to the Ukrainian regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko.

He claimed four people were wounded.

Each side has blamed the other for heightened risks to the Zaporizhzhia plant – which Russia seized in March – though Ukrainian technicians continue to operate it.

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