The explosion on Russia's bridge to Crimea not only strikes a blow against Russia's military effort in Ukraine, it's also a psychological blow to Moscow and a major propaganda victory for Ukraine.
Russia began constructing the enormous 19-kilometer (about 12-mile) bridge over the Kerch Strait, spending an estimated $3.7 billion, after Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It was the physical expression of Russian President Vladimir Putin's objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever. The day it opened, he led a triumphant convoy over the bridge, driving a truck festooned with flags.
Russia's propaganda industry went into overdrive, even producing a romantic comedy about the bridge called "The Crimean Bridge, Made with Love," a rom-com about two guys working on building the bridge pursuing the same cute archaeology student. The screenplay was written by Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia's main international propaganda TV channel RT.
The explosion on the Crimean bridge early Saturday was hardly extinguished before the trolling — a major weapon in this war — began.
The attack took place the day after Putin turned 70, and Ukraine's Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov published video of the bridge in flames, with a huge section of the roadway collapsing into the water, alongside a parallel video of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday, Mister President." Others online compared the bridge attack to Ukraine's April sinking of the Russian Navy's warship the Moskva.
Putin's government scrambled to insist that the damage was under control and would be repaired quickly. The state news agency TASS avoided the word "attack," reporting that a team of 380 responders, along with 90 pieces of equipment, was dispatched to "eliminate the consequences of the emergency" on the bridge. The Russian Transport Ministry said the railway section of the bridge, vital for bring troops and equipment for the war effort, would be restored by Saturday evening. Russia's Investigative Committee immediately launched a criminal investigation.
Online, Ukraine was triumphant about striking such a key Russian military and symbolic objective. And Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak warned there could be more attacks ahead in a tweet, saying "everything occupied by Russia must be expelled."