After an explosion on Saturday caused the partial collapse of Kerch Bridge which links the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin swiftly signed a decree tightening security for energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia.
Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, was put in charge of the effort, according to a Kremlin statement.
Russia’s Defence Ministry also announced that air force chief Gen Sergei Surovikin would now command all Russian troops in Ukraine. Gen Surovikin, who over the summer was placed in charge of soldiers in southern Ukraine, previously led Russian forces in Syria.
The 19-kilometre (12-mile) Kerch Bridge, on a strait that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is a tangible symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea and an essential link to the peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The $3.6 billion bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to sustaining Russia’s military operations in southern Ukraine. Putin himself presided over the bridge’s opening in 2018.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the destruction on Saturday, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility.
In a video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy indirectly acknowledged the attack on the bridge by talking about the weather in Crimea but did not address its cause.
“Today was a good and mostly sunny day on the territory of our state,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea.”
He said Ukraine wants a future “without occupiers. Throughout our territory, in particular in Crimea.”
Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s lower house, said “consequences will be imminent” if Ukraine were responsible. And Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia faction, said Russia should respond by attacking key Ukrainian infrastructure, including power plants, bridges and railways.