The bridge connecting Crimea to Russia was closed overnight after a series of explosions rocked the occupied peninsula, the Kyiv Post reported on August 16.
Crimea is looking increasingly vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks and waves of people were recorded leaving amid fears of becoming the war’s next victims. Although not officially confirmed, many suspect Ukrainian forces to be behind a series of explosions on August 16 and the attack on Saky airbase on August 9.
As a result, Crimea is under a regional state of emergency and the Kerch bridge was closed from 10pm to 6am on August 17 amid fears of another assault. Ukrainian news channel ‘Channel 24’ claims that the shutdown allowed Russian officials to escape Crimea rather than it being a safety measure for civilians.
The day before, a record number of cars crossed the bridge, with reportedly 38,297 driving in both directions, Ukrinform reported. It is not clear how many were leaving or going to the peninsula, but it is strongly suspected that the majority were leaving.
Moscow blamed this week’s attacks on saboteurs, resulting in damage to the Dzhankoi railway line that Russian troops stationed in occupied South Ukraine used to restock supplies from Russia. In response, Mykhailo Podolyak, a key adviser to the Ukrainian president, effectively confirmed Ukraine’s involvement in an interview with The Guardian and warned that more attacks on the peninsula could take place in the coming months.
“Our strategy is to destroy the logistics, the supply lines and the ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. It’s creating a chaos within their own forces,” he told the British newspaper.
Ukrainian partisans are known to be operating in Crimea and posters warning Russians of further attacks have been documented in the region. Across Russia, saboteurs have targeted ammunition depots and other facilities. As bne IntelliNews wrote in April, fires and explosions frequently occur in Russia as part of an underground resistance movement. However, it is not known to what extent Kyiv is involved in these attacks.
The peninsula holds a lot of significance for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was greeted with sky-high approval ratings after annexing the Ukrainian territory in 2014. He is likely to be feeling additional pressure now that Ukraine has proved it can conduct military operations in the region.