Vladimir Putin was left reeling after being told the Kerch Bridge would not be fully operational until July 2023 at the earliest. It was opened by the Russian President in 2018 and consists of both a rail and road segment. The 12-mile bridge links Crimea with mainland Russia and provides a vital supply route for the Kremlin’s forces in the south of Ukraine.
Russian commanders have used the bridge to transfer men and equipment from the peninsula to the frontlines on the Kherson front.
Ukraine’s army targeted it in a spectacular attack on October 8, resulting in a section of the bridge falling into the sea.
Russian officials claimed the damage could be repaired within a short period of time.
However, they have now admitted their initial assessment was wrong and that the bridge will not be fully operational before July 2023.
A document published on a Russian government website said the Kremlin had appointed the company Nizhneangarsktransstroy to be the sole contractor for repairs.
The company has been tasked with the “design and restoration of destroyed elements of the transport and engineering infrastructure of the Crimean Bridge”.
It sets “a deadline by which state contracts for the work are to be completed… of 1 July 2023”.
Putin’s army has been beset by logistical problems throughout the war, and the damage to the bridge is only making things worse.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said that supply issues faced by Russia’s southern army have “likely become more acute” as a result of the October 8 attack.
In their Monday war bulletin, the MoD’s analysts wrote: “Logistical issues faced by Russian forces in southern Ukraine have likely become more acute following damage to the Kerch Bridge on 08 October 2022.
“Repair efforts are ongoing, and it is open to some traffic.
“However, a large queue of waiting cargo trucks remains backed up near the crossing.”
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The researchers said that the Russians were probably having to redirect supplies via Mariupol to compensate for the reduced capacity of the Kerch Bridge.
They added: “With the Russian presence in Kherson strained, and the supply routes through Crimea degraded, the ground line of communication through Zaporizhzhia Oblast is becoming more important to the sustainability of Russia’s occupation.”
Putin’s army has been trying to repel a concerted Ukrainian counteroffensive on its Kherson front.
The Ukrainians have managed to take more territory as they push on towards Kherson city, a port situated on the Dnipro River and the Black Sea.
The city fell to Putin’s army in the first days of the war after its defenders fled without putting up a fight.
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Its capture would be a huge morale boost to Kyiv and would provide a bridgehead from which to launch an attack on Crimea.
Last week, another five settlements were retaken by the Ukrainians, as their forward momentum continued.
These were located in the Beryslav district in the north-east of the Kherson region and included Novovasylivka, Novogrygorivka, Nova Kamyanka, Tryfonivka, and Chervone.
After a short lull in fighting, Russian sources reported renewed Ukrainian assaults in the Kherson direction over the weekend.
Ukrainian observers also noted higher-than-average numbers of daily shelling and missile strikes.