Russia increased security on its only bridge to Crimea after a massive blast on Saturday destroyed sections of it.
|Crimean Bridge, New satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies show smoke and fire following the explosion on the symbolic Crimean bridge.|
President Vladimir Putin has now directed the Federal Security Service (FSB) to monitor the key link to the occupied peninsula.
The bridge is also a key symbol of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. According to Russian investigators, the blast killed three people.
Work to repair the damaged sections would begin immediately, according to officials.
According to Russian news agencies, Russia's deputy prime minister ordered the bridge's destroyed sections to be removed immediately and said divers would begin investigating damage below the waterline on Sunday morning.
The bridge, dubbed "the construction of the century" by Russian media, has been critical to Russia's movement of military equipment, ammunition, and troops into southern Ukraine.
New satellite images released on Saturday, however, showed smoke and fire near the collapsed areas of the 19km (12-mile) bridge, which was inaugurated with great fanfare four years after Moscow annexed Crimea.
Because of its strategic importance in the war, Ukrainian authorities have declared it a legitimate target as they vow to retake the peninsula.
Ukrainian officials responded to the explosion with thinly veiled approval, but have not indicated that their forces were behind it.
In his nightly address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the incident, saying, "Today was not a bad day and mostly sunny on our state's territory."
"Unfortunately, the weather in Crimea was cloudy. Despite the fact that it was also warm, " He continued.
Russian authorities moved quickly to reopen those parts of the key connector that remained intact, and the bridge was partially reopened to road and rail traffic late Saturday.
It is a critical link in Moscow's supply chain to the front lines of its invasion of Ukraine, as well as to the annexed Crimean territory itself.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Crimean governor appointed by Moscow, said there was a desire for vengeance, but reassured residents that the peninsula still had a month's worth of fuel and more than two months' worth of food.
"The situation is manageable - it's unpleasant, but it's not fatal," he explained.
"Russian illegal construction is starting to fall apart and catch fire," said David Arakhamia, parliamentary head of Mr Zelensky's party in Ukraine.
"The reason is simple: If you build something explosive, it will explode sooner or later."
According to a Ukrainian MP, regardless of who was responsible for the attack, it was a "big Ukrainian victory and a very severe and hard loss for Russia."
"The bridge is not destroyed, but it is damaged," Oleksiy Goncharenko said. "The most important thing is that Putin's image is destroyed."
The political, symbolic, and strategic importance of the Crimean bridge cannot be overstated. Russian officials previously claimed that it was well protected from threats from the air, land, or sea, owing to its location more than 100 miles from Ukrainian-held territory.
According to the Russian national anti-terrorism committee, the damage was caused by a truck bomb exploding, causing seven railway carriages to catch fire. It was also stated that the home of a man from the Krasnodar region of southern Russia is being investigated.
While Ukraine has not linked its armed forces to the explosion, it has previously targeted Crimea. Ukraine claimed responsibility for a series of air strikes on Crimea last month, including one on Russia's Saky military base.
Since Saturday's bridge attack, Ukraine's social media has erupted in joy. The country's second-largest bank has already issued a new debit card design featuring the collapsed bridge.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed significant territory lost to Russia earlier in the war.
Russia appointed a new commander to lead its troops in Ukraine just hours after the bridge explosion. Sergei Surovikin is a veteran commander best known for leading Russian forces in Syria, where he is accused of overseeing the annihilation of Aleppo.
However, Russia still controls large swaths of Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, which has lost all external power and is relying on emergency diesel generators for reactor cooling, according to the UN nuclear watchdog.
According to regional governor Oleksandr Starukh, overnight shelling in the nearby city of Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine's south-east, killed at least 12 people.
According to him, a dozen Russian air strikes hit several residential buildings, destroying some and damaging many more.
"There could be more people beneath the rubble. At the scene, a rescue operation is underway. Already, eight people have been rescued "He stated this on Telegram.
Officials had previously stated that 17 people had been killed in the shelling.