The 12-mile Kerch Strait Bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, which was badly broken by an explosion on Saturday, isn’t just the first provide route for Moscow’s forces preventing in southern Ukraine. It’s also deeply symbolic for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a pillar of his disputed declare to the Crimean Peninsula because the completion of the dual highway spans in 2018.
Mr. Putin presided over the bridge’s opening, personally driving a truck throughout what’s a bodily hyperlink between Russia and Crimea — land that Mr. Putin seized from Ukraine in 2014 and annexed to worldwide outcry.
Ukrainians detest the bridge, whose symbolism and strategic significance for resupply has lengthy made it a possible goal. Over the summer season, the Ukrainian army posted a taunting picture on Twitter threatening to strike it with American-provided guided rockets. The video confirmed the launch car, a Excessive Mobility Artillery Rocket system, floating on a pink inflatable pool raft within the strait, and the bridge within the background.
And at one level over the summer season, it appeared to have been focused: Russian officers mentioned that a drone had triggered air protection methods. The Ukrainian authorities had no official remark on the time.
Moscow had stepped up countermeasures to defend the construction, deploying a goal ship — replete with an array of radar reflectors — to guard the bridge from assault and working drills to cowl the bridge with a smoke display.
In addition to army worth, the construction holds deep symbolic significance for the Kremlin. After illegally annexing Crimea in 2014, Moscow vowed to bodily join the peninsula to Russia.
For a century, talks of constructing a bridge throughout the strait — which runs between two mountain ranges, making a fierce wind tunnel — had didn’t lead to motion. However Mr. Putin put his weight behind the venture, regardless of that and different engineering challenges, which embody a seabed coated with some 250 ft of high-quality silt deposited by the alluvial move from varied rivers.
Throughout World Battle II, an ice floe unleashed through the spring thaw toppled a German army bridge that had been unexpectedly constructed throughout the waters to assist the Nazi battle effort.
In 2018, when the brand new bridge was opened, Mr. Putin hailed it as a “exceptional” achievement that, he mentioned, referring to a serious metropolis on the peninsula, “makes Crimea and legendary Sevastopol even stronger, and all of us are even nearer to one another.”
However after explosions on the Saki airfield on Crimea in August, the bridge served a unique function: It was a fast escape route because the battle got here to the peninsula, with greater than 38,000 vehicles crossing in someday, probably the most recorded since Mr. Putin declared it open.