Storm damages Kerch Bridge 

Storm damages Kerch Bridge 

A storm in the Kerch Strait at the weekend tore a pontoon crane from its moorings and smashed it against the new Crimean bridge, which was opened in May in order to connect the illegally occupied Crimean peninsula with Russia. 

The 200-tonne floating construction vessel hit a section of the bridge, Russia’s Taman Federal Road Agency reported. 

“The crane’s arm damaged a lighting pole and bent several metres of safety railing,” it added.

The authorities were forced to halt traffic to the Crimean city of Kerch to make repairs. 

The bridge is Moscow’s only direct road link to Crimea. 

Russia started construction of the 19km, US$3-billion bridge in 2015 connecting Rostov-On-Don Oblast with occupied Crimea across the Kerch Strait.

Russia expects it will carry millions of cars and rail travellers and millions of tonnes of cargo each year. Previously, any car passing over the strait had to use a ferry or pass through Ukraine.

Ukraine regards the construction as illegal as the Kremlin clearly tries to consolidate its grip on the vast peninsula since the 2014 occupation. 

Kiev has said the construction of the bridge shows blatant disregard for international law. 

Ferry traffic is often halted because of poor weather.

Ukraine warned that due to the shallow strait and the frequent storms in the link between the Black and Azov seas, any bridge would struggle to survive winter weather, according to Ukraine’s Kyiv Post. 

Russian state media called the bridge the “construction of the century”. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany considered and scrapped plans to build a bridge over the Kerch Strait. 

It said the bridge also reduced the number of ships that could use the Ukrainian Azov ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol as only cargo vessels below 30 metres can pass under the 33-metre bridge.

Russia planned to open the bridge in December, but the highway was completed in May and President Vladimir Putin drove an orange Kamaz truck across it to cut the ribbon. 

The Post reported that Russia’s Federal Security Service began stopping non-Russian vessels from Ukrainian ports, alleging “possible Ukrainian saboteurs [were] planning to blow up the bridge.”

It said more than 160 vessels had been searched since May, boosting tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov, where Russia’s naval presence has reportedly increased. 

The bridge can reportedly carry up to 40,000 cars per day and its span is greater than that of the Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal, previously the longest in Europe.

 

The Kerch Bridge under construction. Picture credit: Kremlin 

 

 

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