What caused the explosion on the bridge to Crimea?

The attack on the Kerch Bridge to Crimea stunned both Ukrainians and Russians with its scale and ingenuity, and experts have wondered who was responsible for the attack and how it was carried out.

From the truck bomb to the underwater attack, military experts and analysts have put forward multiple theories about what caused Saturday’s blast on the 12-mile road and rail link to the peninsula annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014, though their findings are inconclusive .

“It is too early to definitively speak about the cause of the explosion based on the publicly available information,” said NR Jenzen-Jones, weapons and ammunition specialist at Armament Research Services.

The bridge has been an obsession of Ukrainians ever since it was one of Putin’s signature infrastructure projects. Viktor Andrusiv, who was an adviser at Kyiv’s Interior Ministry until July, said he participated in a task force with the military to explore viable options for destruction.

“It’s not an easy task, not at all,” says Andrusiv, who has been publicly calling for the bridge to be destroyed for months. “It’s a very well protected object – from the air, from the sea, from the ground.”

Was a rocket used?

Most defense experts consider this type of attack unlikely. The bridge was out of range of Kiev’s US-supplied Himars, a medium-range guided artillery-missile system, and US defense officials had warned they would not be allowed to be deployed on the bridge, according to US and Ukrainian officials.

But two from our own cultivation Neptun anti-ship missiles were used in April to destroy the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, indicating Ukraine’s ability to effectively use this type of airstrikes against Russia, albeit at shorter ranges.

Those surprisingly accurate hits suggest Western allies may be providing technical assistance in fine-tuning Ukrainian weapons, analysts say. They have so far turned down Ukrainian requests for longer-range US-made missiles to be launched by the Himars.

“Checking for cloudy weather – thunder, rain?” said a Western official when asked what caused part of the bridge to collapse. This was perhaps a cryptic reference to the Grim2, a Ukrainian missile with a theoretical range of up to 500km that has been in development for decades. Grim and the rocket’s former name, Grom, are Ukrainian words for thunder. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj also described the weather in Crimea as “cloudy” in his nightly broadcast on Saturday.

Did a truck bomb cause the damage?

The most popular theory was a bomb blast from a white truck identified in online footage. “There was something in the truck that exploded,” said a structural engineer who now works in a specialized branch of the Ukrainian military and analyzed the videos. “Something special.”

A fireball appeared on cameras as the truck parked parallel to a train carrying fuel, contributing to the blaze that has reduced traffic on the bridge to single-track vehicles and trains. If it was a truck bomb, this could indicate that it was being pursued either from the air or by another vehicle whose pilot or driver could point out the optimal time for detonation. Russian investigators say three people were killed in the blast, but it’s not known if they were bystanders or bystanders.

Satellite image shows damage to the Kerch Bridge
Satellite image shows damage to Kerch Bridge © Maxar Technologies/AP

Serhiy Kuzan, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense ministry, disagreed, noting two adjacent strikes in his analysis of publicly available footage. “We see that the road bridge’s supporting structure is destroyed in two places,” he said, adding that blame should be placed on a truck so that Russia could define this as terrorism and not a targeted military strike.

But Andrusiv came to the same conclusion as the structural engineer-turned-soldier. “It was a truck bomb, and very likely the truck was also carrying agricultural chemicals,” he said, suggesting that the size of the explosion was magnified by the contents of the truck.

Is an underwater attack plausible?

The granularity of available footage has led to various, less plausible, theories. Some videos appeared to show a ship passing under the bridge at the time of the blast. “Possibly a remote controlled explosive on a boat with a detonation sensor when passing under a structure?” tweeted OSINT Amateur, a small open source investigation group.

However, a photo of the underside of the collapsed bridge, also shared on social media, showed no burn marks or crumpled metal that would indicate an explosion rising from the water’s surface.

Photos of an unmanned maritime drone washed up on the Crimean coast were shared on social media Earlier this year, suggesting Ukraine may be able to stage a submersible attack.

Who carried out the strike?

Military experts believe that the Ukrainian intelligence services are the most likely branch of the Kiev security apparatus to have carried out the attack.

Andrusiv said the joint task force considered missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, underwater drones, stealth boats and a truck bomb. Ukrainian missiles had no accuracy at that range, and the other options required special weapons, which they didn’t have. They did not come to a conclusive assessment.

A Western adviser described how intelligence agencies combined NATO-like capabilities with Mossad mysticism for their covert operations during the seven-month conflict with Russia. This included special operations deep in the occupied territories using partisan and elite troops.

But the strategy of disinformation, evasion and counter-accusation by Ukraine and its allies about the audacious attack allows them to sow disinformation, or at least confusion – and keeps the Kremlin, influential military bloggers and militant TV hosts guessing at Ukraine’s capabilities .

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, even suggested that power struggles between different power centers in Moscow were behind the attack. “This is a concrete material manifestation of the conflict between the [intelligence services] on the one hand and the [military] on the other hand,” he told the FT.

As evidence, he pointed to the fact that the truck seen in the videos drove from Russia to Crimea. “The Logistics of Detonation. . . All of this clearly points to the Russian trail,” he said. Russia’s president late Sunday said there was “no doubt” that Ukraine was behind the blast, calling it a terrorist attack.

Jenzen-Jones said the signal sent by the strike was stronger than its physical impact as only one of the two railroad tracks appeared to have been destroyed.

“If the damage to the Kerch Bridge is in fact the result of a Ukrainian strike, this represents a propaganda victory rather than an operational one.”

https://www.ft.com/content/6e807a1a-f5b7-4e04-8770-6dec3835f13c What caused the explosion on the bridge to Crimea?

Adam Bradshaw

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