The explosion that caused the partial collapse on Saturday of the Kerch Strait bridge linking Crimea with Russia illustrates a crucial fact about the Ukraine war that both sides have been quick to understand: In a country facing the sea and crisscrossed by rivers, the bridges are a vital military force. Origin.
Since Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the Kerch Railway and Road Bridge has served as a Supply route to the large Russian military base On the peninsula in Sevastopol. Since seizing Kherson province in southern Ukraine in March, Moscow has used the bridge to move troops and equipment into the region across Crimea.
In any war, success is measured primarily on the basis of the outcome of the battles. But for military planners, control of infrastructure plays a crucial role. That is why it came as no surprise to many that when Ukraine launched its counterattack in the south in late August, it targeted the bridges that Russia was using as supply routes.
“Anything that includes water adds incredible logistical constraints to any military operation,” said Samantha de Bendern, associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a British think tank. “Controlling or destroying a bridge is very important.”
It was one of the main goals of Ukraine Antonevsky Bridge, which spans the Dnipro It is located in Kherson and is about a mile long. Completed in 1985, the bridge has been a symbol for many Ukrainians of engineering prowess. Since July, the Ukrainian military has repeatedly hit the bridge with US-supplied long-range HIMARS missiles, making it difficult for Russia to resupply up to 25,000 troops that were stationed on the western shore of the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian forces also targeted three other bridges in Kherson Province, two of which span the Dnipro River, northeast of Kherson, and one crosses the much narrower Inholets River.
This forced Russia to build pontoon bridges, which were itself vulnerable to attack, and to transport reinforcements and supplies by boat. But the Ukrainian forces say so in the fight for Kherson Province Both sides benefited from floating bridgesBoth sides sometimes destroyed them with the help of drones.
“We build them, they blow them up,” Colonel Roman Kostenko, the Ukrainian commander of troops stationed in Kherson Province, said in August of the pontoon bridges. “They build it, we blow it up.”
Bridges also proved crucial in battles in the Far East, not least because troops came under artillery fire when trying to cross rivers.
It is therefore not surprising that Moscow used a river, in this case the east bank of the Oskil River, as its defensive line after being forced to retreat in Kharkiv Province in the face of a swift Ukrainian counterattack in early September. The Uskil River line was now breached, and Ukraine made gains in the Far East.
Ukrainian forces Defeat a Russian battalion In May when I tried to cross a series of pontoon bridges over the Siversky Donets.
A British Ministry of Defense agency said at the time: “Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a risky maneuver.”
Weeks later, Russian forces—as they advanced around two cities in Luhansk Province divided by the Siversky Donets—managed to pressure Ukrainian forces to retreat when they bombed bridges and put them out of service, making resupply and evacuation all the more dangerous. They captured both cities shortly thereafter.
The sudden weakness of the Kerch Bridge is likely to force Moscow to look for alternative ways of supplying its forces. Mick Ryan, a military expert, said one solution could lie in routing supplies through the city of Melitopol, which Russia captured early on in the conflict. But that same city was a subject Ukrainian rebel attacks.
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