Russia’s foreign ministry warned of retaliation against Ukraine for the latest attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge on Saturday, a vital Russian link to the occupied Crimean Peninsula that Kyiv has vowed to keep striking until it is unusable.
Despised by Ukrainians as a symbol of Russian occupation — President Vladimir V. Putin ordered it built after illegally annexing Crimea in 2014 — the Kerch bridge has been a target since the war began. Ukraine has already hit it twice. Beyond its symbolic value, the 12-mile span is a critical strategic asset, allowing Moscow to move troops and equipment from Russia to its bases in Crimea and then onto the battlefield in southern Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that it had downed a Ukrainian missile targeting the bridge and that there was no damage. Video broadcast on Russian and Ukrainian state news media showed smoke billowing over the span, though the Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said that was just a smoke screen intended to protect the bridge. The claims could not be independently verified, and Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, condemned the latest attack, calling it an act of “sabotage” and warning that it “will not remain without a response,” the Russian state news agency Tass reported on Saturday.
The attacks on the bridge appear to be part of a broader campaign to cut the Crimean Peninsula off from both Russia and occupied areas of southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are engaged in a grueling counteroffensive effort to claw back territory from entrenched Russian forces.
Hours before Saturday’s attack on the bridge, the Russian authorities said Ukraine had launched 20 drones at targets in Crimea.