A blast and fire suspended traffic and damaged a key bridge linking Russia to the occupied Crimean Peninsula early on October 8 in what Moscow authorities said was a truck bombing and a senior aide to Ukraine's president suggested was a fresh blow by Kyiv targeting operational support for Moscow's 7-month-old full-scale invasion.
Meanwhile, 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.
A video shared on pro-Ukrainian social media showed a raging fire on the rail section of the dual road-and-rail Crimea Bridge over the Kerch Strait and a collapsed span on the nearby road segment.
Russian news agencies
Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sent a tweet suggesting Ukrainian involvement. He called the bridge incident "the beginning" but stopped 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 may have attempted to 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.
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 truck that exploded -- were recovered from the water.
Footage shared on pro-Ukrainian social media showed a raging fire on the rail section of the dual road-and-rail Crimea Bridge over the Kerch Strait and a collapsed span on the nearby road segment.
Moscow identified the owner of the truck as a resident of Russia's southern Krasnodar region and said a search was being conducted at his residence.
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. Authorities said train traffic would also resume shortly.
Shared images showed black smoke billowing from a huge blaze at one end of the 19-kilometer road-and-rail bridge, which was completed in 2019.
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, one day after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to human rights activists in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine against the backdrop of harsh crackdowns by Moscow and its allies in Minsk on dissent and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hours earlier, 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 on October 7 that 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 in the direction of Bakhmut.
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 counter-offensive.
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. (KB/RFE-RL)