One of Russia’s best-defended structures is yet to be destroyed this spring, Ukraine says: ‘It’s inevitable’

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‘Third time lucky’ seems to be the motto at the GUR headquarters in Kiev. After two previous attempts to blow up the 18-kilometer bridge between occupied Crimea and the Russian mainland, the Ukrainian secret service wants to finally complete the job before July. This is what senior military officers of the GUR said in conversations with the British newspaper The Guardian.

According to them, the eventual destruction of the bridge is “inevitable”, since in addition to being an important supply line for the Russian army, it is also – and above all – the symbol of the Russian occupation. Russia began construction of the bridge over the Kerch Strait two years after the illegal annexation of Crimea. The road section was festively opened by President Vladimir Putin in April 2018, the rail section in December 2019. Construction cost more than 225 billion rubles at the time, equivalent to around 3.5 billion euros at the exchange rate at the time.

Train wagons on fire on the Crimean Bridge in October 2022 after the first attack by Ukraine.Image AFP

The bridge was targeted for the first time in October 2022, when, according to Russia, with a bomb in a passing truck. Several bridge sections fell into the water, and both the railway and highway could not be used for months. In July 2023, the road bridge was attacked by naval drones, requiring further months of repairs.

The manner in which Ukraine will attempt to blow up the bridge this time remains unknown for the time being. In recent weeks, Ukraine has regularly attacked targets more than 1,000 kilometers from the border with drones. The distance from the front, 250 kilometers, seems to pose few problems.

The Crimean Bridge on July 17, 2023 after a second attempt to hit the bridge, then with naval drones.Image AFP

A bigger question is whether Ukraine has the means to attack the bridge. Drones will probably not be enough: the work of art is currently one of the best defended Russian buildings due to its important value and the previous attempts. Both anti-aircraft systems and physical barriers in the sea should help repel attacks.

Taurus

Kiev therefore previously mainly looked at the German Taurus cruise missiles as the most efficient means of targeting the bridge. Thanks to its powerful weapon head, it can theoretically pierce the road surface as well as destroy the reinforced concrete bridge pillars. In a telephone conversation leaked by Russia, senior German officers discussed at the end of February how ten to twenty Taurus missiles would likely be enough to destroy the bridge.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been refusing to deliver the missiles to Ukraine for months, possibly out of fear that German missiles would destroy such an important Russian symbol.

Yet the GUR officers assure that they already have “most of the resources necessary to carry out the objective”. The successful campaign to eliminate more and more ships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet and to force the rest of the Russian navy to withdraw further and further from Crimea is a run-up to the ultimate prize, they say. The plan is said to have come from intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov and has been approved by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Among other things, the sinking of the large landing ship Sergei Kotov in March, using ten Ukrainian Magura V5 naval drones filled with explosives, would, according to the GUR, be a so-called ‘shaping operation‘ or preparation. The Sergei Kotov was sailing south of the Crimean Bridge at the time of the attack.

Russian President Vladimir at the inauguration of the road section of the bridge on May 15, 2018.Image EPA

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Russias bestdefended structures destroyed spring Ukraine inevitable

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