Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
October 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Amy Woodyatt, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN
Maxar satellite images captured the damage to the Kerch Strait bridge Saturday, shortly after an explosion rocked the only direct road and rail connection between annexed Crimea and mainland Russia.
The blast caused parts of the bridge to collapse, though Russian transportation officials restarted rail service and allowed vehicles to use some undamaged portions of the roadway by Saturday evening.
The Crimean bridge explosion accelerates the strategic choices Russian President Vladimir Putin must make about Russia’s occupation of southern Ukraine.
This entire presence was already poorly supplied, managed and in retreat. Rickety ferry crossings in bad weather or highly dangerous air cargo flights may now be needed to bolster military shipments into Crimea and toward the frontlines.
Ukraine has been targeting Russia' aging transport dependencies — particularly its reliance on rail — with slow, patient accuracy. First Izium, which led to the collapse around Kharkiv. Then Lyman, which is leading to the erosion of Russia’s control of Donetsk and Luhansk. And now the Kerch Strait bridge, which had become so vital to everything that Russia is trying to hold on to in the south.
Putin now faces a series of expedited and painful decisions, all of which will severely belie his continued poker-face of pride and bombast toward the gathering signs of slow defeat.
To the west of the Dnieper river, his army in Kherson is besieged by fast-moving Ukrainian forces. Putin's troops are already in retreat, partially owing to the same poor resupply that will be accentuated by the Kerch blast.
They are again cut off from this faltering supply line by another series of damaged or targeted bridges across the Dnieper. Over the past week, they have already fallen back over 500 square kilometers (about 193 square miles).
Can Moscow sustain this force over two damaged supply routes? A precarious presence has perhaps overnight become near-impossible.
The second point of decision relates to Crimea. Putin now faces the difficult choice of fortifying it further with depleted forces who face resupply issues, or partially withdrawing his military to ensure their significant resources on the peninsula do not get cut off.
Putin must choose between feeding his larger ambitions with a dwindling chance of success or consolidating forces around an objective he has a greater chance of achieving.
One carries the risk of catastrophic collapse, for his entire brutal adventure into Ukraine — and quite possibly, his rule. The second leaves him with an immediate loss of face, but a stronger chance of sustaining the occupation of smaller parts of Ukraine.
Freight trains are moving again on the Crimean bridge following an explosion early Saturday, and 12 passenger trains should pass through the railway line overnight, according to Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.
Khusnullin also said that so far, one lane of car traffic is moving on the bridge, and the goal is to open two lanes to traffic by morning.
“We have visually inspected the Crimean bridge, you already know that one lane of traffic has been launched, the task is to prepare everything overnight and tomorrow launch traffic in two lanes,” Khusnullin told Crimean media.
While Russian officials said that a limited amount of car traffic had resumed on the undamaged sections, trucks were told to take ferries across the Kerch Strait, state media reported.
The Russian Ministry of Transport announced that trains have permission to run on the Crimean bridge, and the first test train run on the railway track was successful.
The Telegram channel of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Crimean Railway said that after the first stage of repairs to the bridge, a train with 15 cars passed through it.
An explosion on a bridge linking Russia with Crimea dealt a strategic and symbolic blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's war effort. Meanwhile, more shelling near the Zaporizhzhia power plant renewed fears of a possible nuclear accident.
If you're just joining us, here's the latest:
- A blast on the Crimean bridge: A huge explosion severely damaged the only bridge connecting annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland, causing parts of Europe’s longest bridge to collapse. At least three people were were killed, according to Russian officials.
- Ukrainian leaders celebrate: While stopping short of claiming responsibility, high-ranking Ukrainian officials publicly celebrated the bridge explosion. Ukraine's secretary of the National Security and Defense Council posted a taunting birthday message for Putin and the postal service announced stamps commemorating the blast. In Kyiv, residents posed for selfies in front of a billboard depicting the burning bridge.
- Russia restores some travel on the bridge: Russian officials rushed to investigate the explosion and restore partial service on the bridge's parallel rail and roadway structures. By evening, limited car traffic resumed on undamaged parts of the bridge and train service had restarted. The blast disrupted major transport links, however, and Russian officials planned to use ferries for trucks. The Kremlin said Putin has signed a decree strengthening the bridge's defenses, but provided few other details.
- Power plant knocked off power grid: The nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia is once again running on emergency diesel generators after renewed Russian shelling damaged and disconnected the facility's connection to the Ukrainian power grid. The shelling sparked condemnation from the UN nuclear watchdog and the Ukrainian energy minister, who warned of a potential nuclear accident.
- Who controls the plant? While Putin signed a decree that puts the power plant under Russian state control as part of the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Western allies reject the move as illegal under international law. Ukraine's military claims that plant employees are being pressured to sign employment contracts with Russia's nuclear energy agency. The EU's top diplomat reiterated Saturday that Russia's claim to the plant is "legally null and void."
Here are the current frontlines and the location of the Kerch Strait bridge connecting Russia to Crimea:
NATO needs to work on strengthening its defense, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Saturday.
“We live in serious times, and in such times, it is also important to know where we have gaps in defense. The air defense is one such area where it is urgent to act,” Lambrecht said while visiting German troops deployed in Lithuania.
Germany also announced more weapon deliveries for Ukraine, including the IRIS-T air defense system, and a total of 100 tanks from Greece and Slovakia.
Facing an increased security threat, Germany will also create a new armored infantry brigade that could be quickly deployed to Lithuania in times of need, Lambrecht added.
Train service on the Crimean bridge was restored Saturday evening as routes from the cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol depart to Moscow, according to a statement published by the operator of the passenger train service.
The Russian Grand Service Express carrier company said Saturday that the "double-decker train No. 28 Simferopol-Moscow left the capital of Crimea today at 17:10 according to the schedule. Train No. 8 Sevastopol-St. Petersburg left Sevastopol at 17:15."
The structure has separate infrastructure for its rail and roadway bridges, which run parallel to one another.
Car traffic on the undamaged part of the road bridge has also resumed, according to the Russian-appointed head of Crimea.
Car traffic on the undamaged part of the Crimean bridge has resumed, said the Russian-appointed head of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov, in a statement on his Telegram channel on Saturday.
"At the moment, traffic is open to cars and buses with a full inspection procedure. We ask truck drivers to plan their route using the Kerch ferry crossing. The Kerch-2 ferry will begin to sail across the strait in two hours," he said.
Social media video reviewed by CNN indicates that the westbound lanes on the road bridge were severed, but eastbound lanes appear intact.
Cars have begun to pass over the Crimean bridge from Taman on the Russian mainland toward the Crimean peninsula en route to the city of Kerch, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported on Saturday.
Russian state media RIA Novosti reported Saturday that the Minister of Transport of the Crimean Republic Nikolai Lukashenko said ships with a capacity of 100 people will be launched to take passengers between Crimea and Russia's Krasnodar Territory as an alternate method of transport.
According to Aksenov, railway communication on the bridge is set to be renewed by the end of the day.
The pro-Russian militia of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said its units are carrying out an offensive to the west of the city of Donetsk, advancing into the village of Pervomaiskoye.
The area — near the city's now defunct and destroyed airport — has seen constant fighting for several months.
The DPR militia said in a statement on its Telegram channel Saturday that its units "continue their successful advance and are cleaning up the village of Pervomaiskoye. The actions of the assault groups are supported by artillery, the fire of which is adjusted using unmanned aerial vehicles."
The militia also published a video purporting to show its progress toward taking the village.
Ukraine's military has said that its forces have resisted several attempts to capture Pervomaiskoye this week.