Russia Sets Up Ferry Service to Bypass Damaged Kerch Strait Bridge

Russia’s Ministry of Transport has set up a ferry service across the Kerch Strait to take over vehicle traffic, offsetting some of the impact of the damage to the Kerch Strait Bridge on Saturday morning.

According to Russian officials, a truck was blown up on the westbound road deck of the Kerch Strait Bridge at about 0600 on Saturday morning. Two spans of the westbound deck collapsed into the water, but the adjacent eastbound deck remained in place. The blast’s timing coincided with the passage of a fuel train on the adjacent rail deck, and it ignited seven fuel tank cars, which burned for hours after the explosion.

A Russian salvage diving team has arrived on the site and is completing an underwater survey of the damage, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said Sunday. An above-water inspection process is already under way.

Traffic had partially resumed on the bridge by late Saturday, though restricted by the extent of the damage. Russia’s Ministry of Transport said that it also resumed suburban commuter rail service over the rail track, though not heavy freight trains.

Two ferries are already in operation to provide a bypass route, and eight separate parking lots have been set up for temporary storage for cars and trucks waiting to make the crossing. Two more ferries will join the effort on Monday, the Yeysh and Mriya.

The ferries operate on a well-established route, which provided the only cross-strait connection before the bridge’s completion in 2018-19. It operates north of the bridge, between Chushka Spit and Kerch, at the narrowest part of the strait. The ferry service shut down in 2020 because the new bridge siphoned off its traffic.

State-owned outlet TASS reports that Russian security forces believe that Ukraine’s special services were responsible for the attack, and that they had assistance from foreign nations and Russian citizens. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the bombing, but its officials have celebrated the achievement of a long-sought goal. Among western analysts, the well-publicized strike is viewed as a psychological victory for Ukraine, even if it is unlikely to have a substantial operational impact on Russian forces.