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ISW assesses consequences of Crimean Bridge attack for Russians

ISW assesses consequences of Crimean Bridge attack for Russians Damaged Crimean Bridge after explosions (Photo: Getty Images)
Author: RBC Ukraine

According to the analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), yesterday's attack on the Crimean Bridge, which resulted in complete disruption of vehicular traffic, has the potential to worsen the logistics of Russian occupiers in southern Ukraine during the counteroffensive operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Following the explosions on the bridge, which connects mainland Russia with the temporarily occupied Ukrainian peninsula, the Russian authorities accused Ukrainian intelligence agencies of launching an unmanned underwater strike against the structure on the morning of July 17.

Video footage of the aftermath shows that one span of the bridge over the Kerch Strait collapsed, while another span sustained damage but remained intact.

The Russian Ministry of Transport then stated that the strikes did not damage either the railway bridge or the supports of the vehicular bridge, and rail traffic across the bridge was restored within a few hours of the attack.

The Russian occupation "administration" redirected intense civilian traffic from the seized Crimea to the Russian territory through the occupied southern regions of Ukraine. Russian sources reported major traffic congestion in the Dzhankoy district of the peninsula and in the territories controlled by the interveners in the Kherson region, towards Melitopol.

The report notes that Russian "tourists" fleeing from occupied Crimea likely increased the traffic and most likely hindered Russian logistics from Crimea to the "rear areas" in the territories of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

The occupation "administration" requested that civilians consider alternative evacuation routes to "alleviate urgent traffic problems."

Andriy Yushov, the spokesperson for the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, declined to comment on the country's involvement in the incident.

However, as previously stated by Ukrainian officials and ISW analysts, the bridge over the Kerch Strait and the military districts in the occupied Crimea are legitimate military targets for the Defense Forces of Ukraine in their defense against the full-scale Russian invasion and attempts by the Kremlin to seize our state.

Key findings:

  • The Russian and occupying "authorities" seem to be focused on mitigating the aftermath of the attack rather than using the incident for mass information attacks with rhetorical overtones.
  • The reaction of Russian "war correspondents" to the attack on the bridge across the Kerch Strait largely criticized the Russian authorities for their inability to ensure the bridge's security.
  • The Wagner PMC continues its preparations for establishing a permanent presence in Belarus.
  • Russia continues its attempts to reorganize its internal security apparatus following the armed uprising of the "Wagner mercenaries."
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three fronts amid increased Russian offensive operations along the border of the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions on July 17.
  • Russian forces conducted active offensive operations along the Kup'yans'k-Svatove line and likely achieved minor tactical successes in that direction. Russian forces continued limited ground attacks to the southwest and south of Kremenna, around Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk line. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area and made progress in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia administrative border area.
  • Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks in the western Donetsk region.
  • Russian sources claimed that the UAF conducted allegedly unsuccessful ground attacks in the Orikhove area in the western Zaporizhzhia region.
  • The Russian opposition publication "Verstka" reported that since the start of the war, the Russian authorities have dismissed at least eight military commanders without reappointing them to new positions, which largely corresponds to previous ISW assessments.
  • The Russian occupying "authorities" continue to artificially increase the number of Russian citizens in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine ahead of the September regional elections.

Attack on the Crimean Bridge

As a reminder, explosions occurred again on the Crimean Bridge overnight on July 17. As later revealed, the cause was an attack.

According to sources of RBC-Ukraine in the Security Service of Ukraine, it was organized by employees of the SBU together with the Naval Forces. The bridge was attacked using surface drones.

Due to the impact, vehicular traffic on the bridge was completely disrupted. Later, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin stated that Russia aims to fully restore vehicular traffic on the Crimean Bridge after the attack by November 1st.