If international repercussion is a criterion of effectiveness, Russia has not adopted the best possible tactics in recent days. On October 8, a large explosion was recorded on the Crimean Bridge, which crosses the Kerch Strait, linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the mainland. In retaliation, Russia carried out a series of missile attacks against Ukrainian territory. In a balance of the two events, the Russian image was affected and, mainly, with little military gains in compensation.
The Crimea Bridge began to be built in February of 2016, after the Russian annexation of Crimea. In addition to its infrastructure purpose, the construction of the bridge, which is the longest in Europe, also had political and symbolic purposes, to connect Crimea to Russia. It was inaugurated in May 2018, with the presence of Vladimir Putin. The bridge has both road lanes and rail tracks.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the bridge has been essential for Russian war logistics, transporting troops, war material and fuel to Crimea. . The peninsula contains some of the main Russian military bases in the region and it was from there that the offensive in southern Ukraine, such as the Kherson oblast, started. As much for its symbolic value, of being a Russian work after the occupation, as for this logistical importance, the Ukrainian authorities, several times, affirmed that the bridge was a legitimate target.
On the aforementioned October 8, a truck exploded on the bridge, parallel to a freight train with several wagons for transporting fuel, flammable material. A massive fire damaged the bridge at the site of the explosion, causing part of the road lanes to collapse and the destruction of a section of rail tracks. Three Russian civilians died. There was no official claim of the attack, but several Ukrainian media outlets claimed that it was a Ukrainian secret service operation.
Several Russian officials also claimed that the responsibility for the attack was Ukrainian. On the 9th, Vladimir Putin stated that “there is no doubt” that it was “an act of terrorism aimed at destroying civilian infrastructure” and “planned, carried out and ordered by the Ukrainian special services”. It is important to note two words among those used by Putin: terrorism and civilian. In other words, the Russian government seeks to reduce the military importance of the target, classifying the bridge only as civilian and that the attack was, therefore, an act of terror, not war.
In an international aspect minor, Russia has ordered a series of investigations, as all vehicles on the bridge are reportedly inspected. How Ukrainian agents carried out this operation and who were to blame for the security breaches are some of the questions that will undoubtedly mobilize the Russian government. The rhetoric that the bridge was a civilian target and that what happened was not an act of war, however, did not gain strength.
Missiles and repercussions
Not even within Russia, with commentators from channels aligned with the government being practically forced to recognize that the attack was a Ukrainian asset. On the tenth of October it was the turn of Russian retaliation. In this case, “retaliation” is not a column term, but something declared by the Russian government, including Vladimir Putin himself. According to the Ukrainian government, Russia fired 83 missiles and errant munitions of various models against Ukraine’s territory, with Ukrainian defenses shooting down 43 these .
It is important to stress the origin of the numbers because, in a war, the dispute over narratives and propaganda is vital, so the numbers should be viewed with skepticism. According to the Russian government, the missile targets would be energy and transport infrastructure facilities, such as thermoelectric plants and bridges. Several missiles hit the capital Kiev, including places with no direct connection to the war effort, such as universities and museums. In total, at least eleven civilians died, with dozens injured.
The difference between a localized attack on a bridge and a hail of missiles that destroys both military and civilian targets has not gone unnoticed in the international community. . And, as with the referendums in the occupied Ukrainian regions, the condemnations came not from Russia’s traditional rivals, but also from its allies and neighboring countries. India expressed “deep concerns” about “the latest escalation of conflict in Ukraine” and “civilian deaths”. China called for a de-escalation. Israel, where a considerable portion of the population is of Russian origin and a country that has remained neutral, “strongly condemned” the “Russian attacks” against “cities and civilians”.
The Russian image is already quite negatively affected after the invasion of Ukraine, and it is obvious that an improvement in this image will not happen overnight. It is also clear that this will not happen on the part of countries like the US and the UK. Yet such a disproportionately disproportionate response will only alienate Russia from its allies. It also represents a waste of resources in a war that is proving difficult for Moscow. Mainly, it shows that Russia felt the blow after the Crimea Bridge explosion.