Russia has vowed revenge after claiming to have shot down Ukrainian missiles targeting a key bridge linking them with the annexed Crimea. Videos on social media appeared to show smoke rising from near Kerch Bridge, an important resupply route for Russian forces. The Kremlin accused Ukraine of terrorism, while also claiming to have thwarted an attack by 20 drones targeting Crimea overnight. Russian foreign spokeswoman Maria Zkharova wrote on Telegram: “There can be no justification for such barbaric actions and they will not go unanswered.”
The bridge, which is an important symbol for Russia after it was seized in 2014, was not damaged during the attack, with traffic only briefly halted. An adviser to the appointed governor of the annexed region, Sergei Aksyonov, claimed the smoke was an intentional “screen” put up by special services to mask the bridge from incoming drones. Mr Aksyonov said that two missiles had targeted the bridge and a third rocket was shot down over the Kerch Strait.
Russia identified the missiles used as Cold War era S-200s, which were originally designed to destroy enemy aircraft and have been adapted for ground-attack use. While Kiyv has not confirmed the attack, their military has launched at least two other attacks targeting the bridge in recent months, with two people killed last month. Following an explosion on the bridge last October, the route was partially closed for several months and only reopened in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously said the bridge is a legitimate military target as it continued to supply Russian forces with crucial amenities and ammunition. “Understandably, this is a target for us. And a target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralised,” he said. The Russia-installed leader of the occupied Donetsk region also claimed a civilian had been killed by cluster munitions used by the Ukrainian forces. Denis Pushilin wrote on Telegram that the civilian was killed in the Petrovsky district and claimed that a further six people, including a 12-year-old girl, were injured. No pictures or evidence were provided by Mr Pushilin to support his claims.
Cluster bombs are banned by over 100 countries and caused controversy last month after the US agreed to provide them to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military reported a “partial success” near Robotyne on the front line in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. They said that their forces had dug in at the point of their advance, and were conducting defensive attacks. Its state agency reported that their intelligence personnel had successfully neutralised a Russian Terminator vehicle, a heavy tank support combat vehicle designed for urban warfare.
Registration has also begun for ships to use the temporary Black Sea “humanitarian corridor”, which is aimed to free the ships currently stuck in ports. Ukrainian Navy spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk said: “Registration is now open and the coordinator is already working. “Of course, everything will take place under the supervision of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. We are doing everything we can to ensure security.”
Following a day in which Russians launched six rockets, 36 air strikes and fired 32 rocket salvo fire systems towards populated areas and troop positions, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed that children were among the dead and wounded. Shelling of a residential building in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, led to the death of a 73-year-old woman, while it was also confirmed that a police officer had died in the Zaporizhzia region. In Kyiv, crowds gathered in Independence Square to commemorate the life of military medic Dariya Filipova, a 32-year-old who was killed during a battle with Russian troops. Pictures showed mourners carrying red roses and carrying photographs during the farewell ceremony, with relatives, comrades and fellow servicemen in attendance.