Crimea bridge: Russia ‘to repair blast damage by July 2023’
By Robert Greenall | BBC News |
Russia’s government has ordered contractors to finish repairs to a key bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia by July 2023.
The bridge was damaged by a blast last Saturday which officials say left at least three people dead.
Russia blamed Ukraine for the attack but Kyiv has not said it was behind it.
The 19km (12-mile) bridge, Europe’s longest, is a key supply route for Russian forces in Ukraine, but heavy goods vehicles are unable to use it.
The explosion caused midway sections of two of the four carriageways of the bridge to collapse into the sea and also damaged the railway line.
Currently, lorries are forced to queue for a ferry, in a process which is thought to take several days.
The bridge has, however, been reopened for rail and light road traffic.
In other developments on Friday:
- Ukrainian officials are urging the Red Cross to visit the notorious Olenivka prison in the Russian-occupied east of the country within three days
- The BBC Russian service says it has identified more than 7,500 Russian service personnel who have died in the Ukraine war, though the actual level of casualties is believed to be much higher
- Elon Musk has said his rocket company SpaceX cannot continue indefinitely to fund the Starlink internet service in Ukraine – now seen as vital to the country’s communications infrastructure – amid reports he has asked the US defence department to do so
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backed a Russian proposal to set up a gas hub in Turkey for supplies to Europe
- A UK intelligence report says Russian forces from the private military company Wagner Group have captured two villages in Donetsk region, in their first successful advance in the area for three months
A document on the Russian government’s website said it had appointed the company Nizhneangarsktransstroy to be the sole contractor, 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”.
The bridge was opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, four years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Linking eastern Crimea with southern Russia’s Taman peninsula across the Kerch strait, it is considered a showcase project of Mr Putin’s rule.
The Russian president described Saturday’s attack as “an act of terrorism” by Ukraine.
There were widespread celebrations in Ukraine following the attack, but the Kyiv government has denied it was involved.
Massive Russian air strikes on Monday which targeted cities all over Ukraine, killing civilians and damaging infrastructure, were presented by Moscow as a response to the attack on the bridge.
However, analysts say the strikes must have been prepared weeks in advance.