Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Federal Security Service (FSB) to take charge of security measures for a strategic Crimea bridge after an apparent truck bomb damaged the structure linking Russia to the occupied Crimean Peninsula and dealt a humiliating blow to the Kremlin’s prestige.
Meanwhile, on October 8, Kyiv tallied gains in its ongoing counteroffensives in eastern and southern Ukraine over the past week, while pro-Russia forces claimed their first gains in over a month in the eastern Donetsk region around Bakhmut.
In his decree, Putin also put the FSB — the successor to the Soviet-era KGB — in charge of security for energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia.
“The FSB will be given the power to organize and coordinate protective measures for the transport route across the Kerch Strait, for the Russian Federation’s power bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, and the gas pipeline from [Russia’s] Krasnodar region to Crimea,” the decree said.
The blast on the Crimea Bridge over the Kerch Strait caused the partial collapse of the structure, which serves as a crucial conduit for supplies to Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.
It remains unclear who was behind the bridge explosion or if it did indeed originate in the truck.
A senior aide to Ukraine’s president initially suggested it was a fresh blow by Kyiv targeting operational support for Moscow’s 7-month-old full-scale invasion.
Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, sent a tweet suggesting Ukrainian involvement and calling the bridge incident “the beginning” but stopping short of a claim of responsibility by Kyiv.
“Crimea, the bridge, the beginning,” Podolyak tweeted, in English. “Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.”
However, Kyiv appeared to somewhat walk back Podolyak’s remarks. The Ukrainian presidency later released a statement attributed to Podolyak saying the answer to questions about the origin of the blast should come from the Russian side.
“It is worth noting that the truck that detonated, according to all indications, entered the bridge from the Russian side. So the answers should be sought in Russia,” he was quoted as saying.
In a video address, Zelenskiy did not mention the incident directly, but he said that “today was a good and mostly sunny day on the territory of our state. Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea.”
Ukraine is seeking a future “without occupiers. Throughout our territory, in particular in Crimea,” he added.
A video shared on pro-Ukrainian social media showed a raging fire on the rail section of the dual road-and-rail Crimea Bridge and a collapsed span on the nearby road segment.
“Today at 6:07 a.m. on the road traffic side of the Crimea Bridge…[a bomb] exploded, setting fire to seven oil tankers being carried by rail to Crimea,” Russian news agencies quoted the national antiterrorism committee as saying.
Russian authorities said three people were killed in the blast and that the bodies of a man and a woman — likely passengers in a car passing near the explosion — were recovered from the water.
Moscow identified the owner of the suspected truck as a resident of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region and said a search was being conducted at his residence, although it was not known if he was the driver of the truck.
The 3-year-old, 19-kilometer bridge became a symbol of Russian revanchism and has been used to transfer troops, weapons, equipment, and fuel from Russia to Ukraine during the current invasion.
Russian media and Telegram channels reported that traffic was halted on the bridge after Ukrainian reports of a huge explosion there at around 6 a.m. local time.
Hours later, the Russian Transport Ministry said limited road traffic had resumed on undamaged lanes of the bridge and that train service was starting up again as well.
Shared images showed black smoke billowing from a huge blaze at one end of the road-and-rail bridge, which was completed in 2019 at a reported cost of nearly $4 billion.
The Crimea Bridge is Europe’s longest and was intended to consolidate Russia’s control over Crimea, which it invaded and annexed in 2014.
Reports of intense fighting in many areas of Ukraine continued.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly address late on October 7 that Ukrainian forces have recaptured more than 770 square kilometers and 29 municipalities in the past week since Russia’s “sham” referendums in four regions of Ukraine.
But pro-Russian forces said overnight on October 7-8 that they had recaptured ground in the area around the strategic city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in the first Russian claim of a territorial gain since Kyiv’s counteroffensive began more than a month ago.
Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk said they retook several villages near Bakhmut, including Otradovka and Veselaya Dolina.
Russian forces reportedly attempted to storm Bakhmut, a city of around 70,000 people before the war that has been under Russian shelling attacks for several weeks.
A Current Time correspondent on the front lines in northern Donetsk said late on October 7 that Ukrainian fighters appeared to have repelled the Russian forces trying to break through a defense line near the town.
RFE/RL cannot independently verify claims by either side in areas of intense fighting.
On October 8, the Moscow-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region announced a partial evacuation of civilians from the region as Ukrainian forces continued their counteroffensive.
Kirill Stremousov told Russia’s RIA Novosti that young children, their parents, and older persons could travel to two regions in southern Russia because the Kherson area was getting “ready for a difficult period.”
Four days ago, Stremousov told residents there was no reason to panic amid the fighting: “Our artillery and fighter jets are hitting enemy forces that enter the sovereign territory of Russia.”
Russia has said it is annexing parts of Ukraine’s Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions even as its forces are being pushed back in many areas. The West has condemned the illegal annexations, saying they will never be recognized, and have slapped those involved with further sanctions.