Putin axes Army leadership as ‘3 killed’ in Crimea bridge blast

Russia said Saturday three people had been killed after a truck exploded on its bridge linking Crimea — a symbol of its annexation of the peninsula — without immediately blaming Ukraine.

On the same day, after a series of setbacks on the battlefield that triggered unprecedented criticism of its army at home, Moscow appointed a new general to lead its Ukraine offensive.

The blast ripped through the 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge more than seven months into Moscow’s Ukraine offensive.

Local officials said later that it had reopened to motor traffic with vehicles subject to stringent screening. Shortly after, Grand Service Express, which operates rail services there, said the first trains had left the peninsula for Moscow and St Petersburg.

The blast aroused intense excitement and speculation from Ukrainians and others on social media, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made no direct mention of it in his nightly address, and officials made no claim of responsibility.

Earlier, dramatic social media footage showed the bridge on fire with parts plunging into the water.

Russian investigators said three people had been killed. The bodies of an unidentified man and a woman were pulled out of the water, likely passengers in a car driving near the exploded truck, Moscow said.

The authorities also said they had identified the owner of the truck as a resident of Russia’s southern Krasnodar region, saying his home was being searched.

Russia said the blast — which happened just after 6:00 am (0300 GMT) — had set ablaze seven oil tankers transported by train and collapsed two car lanes.

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