Russia closed the strategic Kerch bridge that links the country to the annexed Crimea peninsula on Wednesday after Ukrainian naval drones and a cruise missile struck a shipyard in the port of Sevastopol, reportedly damaging two Russian warships that had been undergoing repairs.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine fired 10 cruise missiles overnight against the key naval base and that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was targeted by three seaborne drones. Kremlin-installed officials in Crimea said a blaze that broke out at the S. Ordzhonikidze ship repair plant injured at least 24 people.
Strikes on the Black Sea peninsula have become more frequent in recent months amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive to reclaim its occupied territory. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to reverse Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s illegal annexation of Crimea, which took place in 2014.
Ukraine hasn’t directly claimed responsibility for the attack, but the commander of Ukraine’s air force, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, appeared to hint at involvement from Kyiv, writing on his Telegram channel on Wednesday: “While the occupiers are still recovering from the night-time bombardment in Sevastopol, I would like to thank the pilots of the Ukrainian Air Force for their excellent combat work! To be continued…”
Shortly after the attack, the Kerch Strait Bridge—which has been struck twice before by Ukraine, in October 2022 and July 2023—was closed to traffic. In August, Kyiv claimed responsibility for both strikes. Zelensky said last month that it is a legitimate target as Russia uses it as a military supply route in the 18-month-old war.
“Vehicle traffic on the Crimean bridge is temporarily blocked. Those on the bridge and in the inspection area are asked to remain calm and follow the instructions of transport security officers,” a Telegram channel which provides operational updates on the bridge, said at about 11 a.m. local time without elaborating on why it had been being closed.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry via email for comment.
The Kerch Strait Bridge is a key supply route for Russia’s forces and is its sole land link with Crimea. It consists of two main parts—a four-lane roadway for vehicles and a railway bridge with two tracks—and is crucial to sustaining Moscow’s military offensives in southern Ukraine.
The bridge has recently been plagued by closures, particularly after Ukraine’s attack on July 17. It had just reopened on Tuesday after a brief closure. On September 3, traffic on the bridge was also briefly suspended, with no reason given by authorities.
The Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War assessed last month that Ukraine’s strikes on key bridges linking Crimea to southern Ukraine and to mainland Russia are impacting Moscow’s ability to move resources. The think tank said this was also impacting the Kremlin’s efforts to fend off Kyiv’s ongoing counteroffensive to reclaim its territory.
Authorities did not state when the Kerch bridge would be reopened to traffic.