Putin calls emergency security council meeting after bridge blast humiliation

Vladimir Putin has been put on the back foot by Ukrainian advances.   (AP)
Vladimir Putin has been put on the back foot by Ukrainian advances. (AP)

President Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting of his national security council following the humiliating attack which left a strategic bridge in Crimea badly damaged.

Parts of the Kerch bridge lurched into the sea following the blast while Ukrainian forces have been advancing on other fronts across Ukraine.

The bridge, damaged early on Saturday morning, is vital in re-supplying Russian forces operating in Ukraine while the overall poor performance of the country’s miltary has drawn criticism inside the country.

Putin said Ukraine’s intelligence forces had aimed to destroy a critically important piece of Russia’s civil infrastructure labelling it a “terrorist act”.

He was speaking at a meeting with the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, Alexander Bastrykin.

Meanwhile Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state-owned news agency TASS on Sunday that the national security council would meet on Monday. Over the past weeks, the Kremlin has been making thinly veiled threats to use its nuclear arsenal against Ukraine as Kyiv regains territory Russia has occupied in its invasion of the country.

Colonel General Andrey Kartapolov, who heads the defence committee of the State Duma, has warned of retaliation over the bridge explosion which killed three people.

He said: “There will be an answer” that “all [Ukrainians] will feel” from the Russian side if Ukraine is found to be responsible for the blast that blew damaged the Kerch Bridge.

He added: “What the answer will be, we will find out.”

The Ukrainian government has not officially commented on the whho carried out or what caused the bridge explosion.

The country’s security service posted a cryptic message on social media service Telegram after the blast, which said: “Dawn, The bridge is well ablaze; Nightingale in Crimea, The SBU [Ukrainian security service] meets,” with a picture of the damaged bridge.

Russia opened an investigation into the explosion, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry is pointing the finger at Ukraine.

Government spokeswoman aria Zakharova said: “The reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure testifies to its terrorist nature.” Fears of a nuclear reposnse from Russia have been growing following Vladimir Putin’s annexation of four areas of Ukraine after referndums dismissed as “sham” by the West. It is unclear if Russia would resort to nuclear weapons to defend territory seized from Ukraine which they now consider their own.

Pope Francis on Sunday said that “we should not forget the danger of nuclear war,” asking “Why don’t we learn from history?”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the Russian army killed 17 civilians in the Ukrainian area of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday.

“A missile attack on the civilian population of Zaporizhzhia destroyed residential houses, where people slept at night, lived, didn’t attack anyone,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Russia appointed a new commander on Saturday to lead its troops in Ukraine after suffering a series of military setbacks over the past weeks. Sergey Surovikin, a general, previously led Russian forces in Syria. Here he was accused of using brutal and controversial military tactics, such as the indiscriminate bombing of anti-government strongholds.

This is the first time Russia has named a single overall commander of its military campaign in Ukraine.

Until now Surovikin led the “South” forces in Ukraine, according to the Russian defence ministry. The change follows the reported sacking earlier this week of the two Russian army commanders.

Meanwhile Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has lost its last remaining external power sources amid renewed shelling and now relies on emergency generators for “essential nuclear safety and security functions,” the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said on Saturday.

The power line supplying energy to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was cut because of continued attacks, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Saturday.

“The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant must be protected,” Grossi said.

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