Putin calls the Kerch bridge attack a “terrorist act” by Kyiv

Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin is describing the attack on the Kerch bridge into Crimea as an act of terrorism carried out by Ukraine’s special services, Russian news reports said.

“There is no doubt that it was a terrorist act directed at destroying very important civilian infrastructure,” Putin said in a videotape of a meeting on Sunday with the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin.

Bastrykin said that he opened a criminal case for a terrorist act.

Bastrykin said that the Ukrainian special services and citizens of Russia and other countries took part in this law.

“We have already identified the route of the truck,” he said, which Russian authorities said detonated a bomb and an explosion on the bridge. Bastrykin said the truck was heading to Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, North Ossetia, Krasnodar (a region in southern Russia) and other places.

This is an urgent news update. AP’s previous story follows below.

Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AFP) – The couple shrank under cover before dawn Sunday when they heard missiles heading back into their city, which has suffered frequent bombardments as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle for territory. illegally annexed by Moscow.

“There was an explosion, and then another,” Mukula Markovic said. Then, in a flash, the fourth-floor apartment he had been sharing with his wife was gone, the 76-year-old said as he sobbed.

And Russian missile strikes at night on the city of Zaporizhzhya destroyed part of a large apartment building, killing at least ten people.

“I don’t know when it will be rebuilt,” Markovic said. “I was left without an apartment at the end of my life.”

The strikes come as Russia suffered a series of setbacks nearly eight months after invading Ukraine in a campaign many thought would be short-lived. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces counterattacked, retaking areas in the south and east, while Moscow’s decision to call in more troops led to protests and mass exodus. Tens of thousands of Russians.

The latest setback for Moscow was the explosion on Saturday of a huge bridge linking Russia to Crimea, which Moscow annexed eight years ago. The attack on the Kerch bridge damaged an important supply route for the Kremlin’s forces, and was a blow to Russia’s prestige.

The last fighting focused on the regions north of the Crimea, including Zaporizhzhya. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his regret over the recent attack in a message on Telegram.

“Again, Zaporizhzhia. Again, merciless attacks on civilians, targeting apartment buildings, in the middle of the night.” At least 19 people died Russian missile strikes on residential buildings in the city on Thursday.

And he added, “Who gave this order, to everyone who carried out this order: they will answer.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the attacks on civilians as a war crime and urged an international investigation.

The Ukrainian Air Force said that the six missiles used in the attack, which occurred on Sunday night, were launched from Russian-occupied areas in the Zaporizhia region. The region is one of four countries Russia declared affiliated with it this month, although its eponymous capital is still under Ukrainian control.

From behind the police tape, stunned residents watched as emergency crews tried to reach the upper floors of a building that had been hit directly. A gap of at least 12 meters (40 ft) wide has burned where the apartments once stood.

And in a neighboring apartment building, missile strikes blew windows and doors off their frames within a radius of hundreds of feet. At least 20 private homes and 50 apartment buildings were damaged, said City Council Secretary Anatoly Kortev.

In the immediate aftermath, the city council said 17 people were killed, but later adjusted that to 12. On Sunday afternoon, regional police reported that 13 were killed and more than 60 were injured, at least 10 of whom were children.

Tetiana Lazonko, 73, and her husband, Oleksiy, hunkered down in the hallway of their upstairs apartment after the air raid sirens sounded. The explosion shook the building and flying off their possessions. Lazonko wept as the couple examined the damage done to their home nearly five decades ago.

Why are they bombing us? Why?” she said.

About 3 kilometers (2 miles) away in another neighborhood devastated by a missile, three volunteers dug a shallow grave for a German Shepherd dog killed in the raid, whose leg was slashed by the explosion.

Russian officials did not immediately comment on the strikes. Similarly, defense officials avoided direct reference to the explosion that damaged the Crimean Bridge in the Kremlin.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War notes that some nationalist bloggers have begun to deliver rare criticism of Russian Vladimir Putin for his failure to address the bridge attack.

Abbas Galiamov, an independent Russian political analyst and former Putin speechwriter, said the Russian president, who set up a committee on Saturday to investigate the bridge explosion, did not respond forcefully enough to appease angry war hawks. He said the attack and response “inspired the opposition, while loyalists are frustrated”.

“Because they see again that when the authorities say that everything is going according to plan and we are winning, they are lying, and this demoralizes,” he said.

Putin personally opened the Kerch Bridge in May 2018 by driving a truck across it as a symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea. The bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to the continuation of Russian military operations in southern Ukraine.

No one has claimed responsibility for destroying it.

Traffic over the bridge was temporarily suspended after the explosion, but cars and trains were back on Sunday. Russia has also restarted its car ferry service.

Crimea is a popular holiday resort for Russians. People who tried to drive to the bridge and to the Russian mainland on Sunday faced traffic jams that lasted for hours.

“We were not ready for such a turn,” said one of the drivers, Kirill Suslov, sitting in traffic. “That’s why the mood is a bit gloomy.”

The Institute for the Study of War said videos of the bridge indicate that damage from the blast “is likely to increase friction in Russian logistics for some time” but not cripple Russia’s ability to equip its forces in Ukraine.

Hours after the explosion, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the commander of the Air Force, General Sergei Sorovikin, would now command all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army said, on Sunday, that violent clashes are taking place around the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region, as Russian forces announced some recent territorial gains. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not acknowledge any territorial loss but said that the “most tense situation” had been observed around these two cities.

In the devastated Ukrainian city of Lyman, which was recently captured after a months-long Russian occupation, authorities have been searching for the bodies of more civilians. Mark Tkachenko of the Kramatorsk region police said that Lyman had become a “humanitarian crisis” that could still carry more horrific discoveries such as mass graves.

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Shukrik reported from Kyiv.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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