Vladimir Putin detains eight including five Russians over Crimean Bridge explosion

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Russia has arrested five Russian citizens and three from Ukraine and Armenia in connection with the explosion which badly damaged the Kerch bridge in Crimea on Saturday, state-run media has announced. The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed the explosion was organised by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, and its director Kyrylo Budanov, according to the Interfax news agency.

Ukraine, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, has not officially confirmed its involvement in the blast, but some Ukrainian officials have celebrated the damage.

The explosion on the twelve mile-long bridge destroyed one section of the road bridge, temporarily halting road traffic.

It also destroyed several fuel tankers on a train heading towards the annexed peninsula from neighbouring southern Russia.

The bridge, a prestige project personally opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, had become logistically vital to his military campaign, with supplies to Russian troops fighting in south Ukraine channelled through it.

It consists of a separate roadway and railway, both supported by concrete stilts, which give way to a wider span held by steel arches at the point where ships pass between the Black Sea and the smaller Azov Sea.

The structure was built, at a reported cost of £3.27billion ($3.6billion), by a firm belonging to Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally and former judo partner of Putin who is now subject to UK, US and EU sanctions.

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Traffic was initially suspended after the incident but by Saturday evening cars and buses were allowed to begin crossing the bridge in alternating directions on the remaining intact lanes, while heavy goods vehicles waited to cross by ferry. Railway traffic also resumed later.

The span through which ships pass the strait was not damaged.

In response to the blast, Russian forces launched mass missile strikes against Ukrainian cities, including power supplies.

At a televised meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Monday, Putin said the strikes were a retaliation for the Crimea bridge blast, which he said had been organised by Ukraine’s secret services.

Specifically, he said he had ordered “massive” long-range strikes against Ukrainian energy, command and communication targets, using missiles fired from air, sea and land, in response to what he described as terrorist attacks, including Saturday’s explosion at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Threatening more strikes in future if Ukraine hits Russian territory, Putin added: “The Kyiv regime, with its actions, has put itself on the same level as international terrorist organisations. With the most odious groups.

“To leave such acts without a response is simply impossible.”

Russia hit about 30 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in its missile attacks on Monday and Tuesday, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told CNN in an interview.

More than 50 countries are gathering on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels today to discuss bolstering Ukraine’s air defence, two days after Russian missiles rained down on cities across the country, including the capital Kyiv.

Advanced air defence systems are designed to protect entire cities from air attacks. Russian air raids on Monday killed 19 people in Ukraine, wounded more than 100 and knocked out power supplies across the country.

Yesterday, Ukraine received the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defence systems Germany promised to supply, a German defence ministry source said.



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