Kyiv has threatened to destroy the Crimean Bridge since its construction in 2018. The threats remained empty, but now the generals of the Armed Forces of Ukraine make it clear that they are counting on long-range missiles promised to them from the West. In addition, Ukrainian intelligence said they had obtained a detailed diagram of the bridge. How real is the threat to the Crimean bridge and why is Kyiv so eager to destroy it?
“For the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Kerch Bridge is the number one goal,” Major General of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Dmitry Marchenko said in an interview on Thursday. Let’s explain – in Ukraine they prefer to call the Crimean bridge connecting the peninsula with big Russia. According to Major General Marchenko, the plans of the Armed Forces of Ukraine regarding the bridge are not a secret either for the Russian or for the Ukrainian military, “neither for their civilians, nor for our civilians.”
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out that the Russian Armed Forces were stopping all threats to the facility. “The security of Crimea is guaranteed by the preventive and additional measures that are now being taken by our military,” he said, adding that Moscow takes into account all such statements by the Ukrainian military and politicians. The head of the Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, spoke ironically about the threats of the Ukrainian military. “A fool is getting richer with his thoughts,” the head of the republic wrote in his Telegram channel. “And the inhabitants of the Kyiv offices of power are more and more reminiscent of the inhabitants of the Reich Chancellery in forty-five – the same hopes for the Wunderwaffe, the same feverish idiocy and crazy speeches.”
However, we note that General Marchenko, who voiced the threat to the Crimean bridge, does not resemble either an armchair strategist or an irresponsible blogger – and before that he had not been seen in a capricious mood. The officer, who now heads the Main Directorate for the Development and Maintenance of Material Support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, made a career during the campaign in Donbass. The Ukrainian media claim that in the summer of 2014 he led five thousand fighters out of the encirclement in the Izvara cauldron, and in the autumn of the same year he participated in the battles for the Donetsk airport. During the special operation, Marchenko oversaw the defense of Nikolaev, and as the Ukrainian side assures, he ensured the combat readiness of the forces in the city.
Kyiv officials and politicians, in fact, did not skimp on promises to impede the construction of the Crimean bridge, and then to destroy it, as Peskov recalled. In 2018, Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan threatened that “Russians will pay dearly” for building a bridge from “Ukrainian Crimea to Ukrainian Kuban.” “The occupiers will definitely need the bridge when they leave our Crimea,” then President Petro Poroshenko predicted. In 2019, Oleksandr Turchynov, at that time already the former head of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), claimed that Ukrainian Neptune cruise missiles could allegedly destroy the bridge “within a few minutes.”
In April, the current head of the National Security and Defense Council, Alexei Danilov, announced: if the Armed Forces of Ukraine have the opportunity to strike at the Crimean bridge, they will use it. “One of the stubborn Ukrainian bosses said about the need to strike at the Crimean bridge. I hope he understands that he will be a retaliatory target,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said on this occasion.
But it is possible that now the Kyiv military has more grounds for threats. The M142 HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems handed over by the American side give confidence to the Ukrainian military, said a member of the State Duma Defense Committee, retired Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin. “This weapon can shoot at long distances, and Kyiv, of course, is counting on it,” Duma TV quoted Zavarzin as saying.
“It is possible to destroy the Crimean bridge with a rocket – if you deliver an accurate blow to it. Even if the rocket hits the span, the bridge will already be destroyed, it will have to be restored. The materials from which the Crimean bridge is made do not play a role for modern weapons, ”Vyacheslav Khramtsov, a Russian military engineer, head of the Fortpost organization of veterans of the engineering troops who participated in the hostilities, told the VZGLYAD newspaper.
We also note that on Thursday the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that it had received detailed technical documentation of the Crimean bridge. According to TASS, the Ukrainian military intelligence service published an electronic presentation on social networks entitled “Construction of a transport crossing through the Kerch Strait.” The GUR claims that these materials contain “detailed information about the terrain, road surface, bridge supports, anti-landslide structures, entrances and exits and the entire infrastructure of the complex.”
“Theoretically, knowledge of the technical documentation can make it easier for the Ukrainian military or some kind of sabotage groups to disrupt the operation of the Crimean bridge,” comments Oleksandr Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.
“Besides, Ukraine can launch airstrikes on the Crimean bridge, for example, from Su-24 tactical bombers,” the interlocutor suggested. – The fact that these planes with ammunition will reach the Crimea is doubtful, but theoretically it is possible. I don’t see any other options.”
In 2017, the former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant-General Igor Romanenko, called the Crimean Bridge vulnerable to military air strikes, as well as land-based and sea-based missiles. But if the Armed Forces of Ukraine now decide to attack the Crimean bridge, then from a military-strategic point of view, this act will not have much significance, experts point out. Communication between the Crimean peninsula and the rest of Russia will not be interrupted. For a hundred days of a special military operation, the Russian Armed Forces ensured control over the land corridor Rostov region – DPR – Zaporozhye region – Crimea. After the complete liberation of Mariupol, it can be stated that communications on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov are located deep in the rear of our troops.
But the fixed idea of the Kyiv regime – the destruction of the Crimean bridge – has a political, or rather, symbolic meaning, political scientist Alexander Asafov notes. “They cannot provide any opposition to the Russian military during the special operation, but politically they have been engaged in the fight against symbols for quite a long time – just remember the “cancellation” of the names of Pushkin, Vatutin, the demolition of monuments to Lenin, and so on,” Asafov points out. “For the remnants of Ukrainian power, the Crimean Bridge has become an annoying symbol of missed opportunities to counter Russia from 2014 to this day.”
From a purely practical point of view, the defeat of “target number one”, according to General Marchenko, is unrealistic, Khramchikhin notes. “The facility is too well guarded and protected. In addition, the bridge itself is a fundamental structure that can only be destroyed by a nuclear strike, or hundreds of powerful missiles can be fired at it and hit by everyone. As you understand, Russian air defense and missile defense will not allow this to be done, ”the expert explained. Deputy Zavarzin also recalled the cover of the bridge by anti-missile and air defense forces.
“Not a single strategic bridge is defenseless,” Khramtsov, a military engineer, noted in turn. – There are air defense systems on the Crimean bridge. The bridge is protected from sea saboteurs by special detachments and barriers that prevent sea saboteurs from getting close to the bridge, mine it and blow it up. There is a coast guard. All this together makes up the protection system of the Crimean bridge. Even on simple bridges, not strategic, during the Great Patriotic War, there were checkpoints with armed guards at the entrance and exit. It is necessary to foresee what the Armed Forces of Ukraine are capable of now, and to organize the system of protection of all strategic facilities accordingly.”
“The Crimean bridge is a large and powerful structure. I don’t see how it could be damaged with a single blow, given its size. The air defense system that protects the Crimea is obligated to prevent the appearance of Ukrainian military aircraft over the peninsula,” Khramchikhin said.
The option of damaging the Crimean bridge, for example, by American HIMARS missile systems, is excluded, the expert says. Firstly, these missile systems are only being put on combat duty by Ukraine, the process of training Ukrainian personnel to operate Himars is underway. Secondly, the effective range of the Himars, that is, the distance from which the missile is most likely to hit the target, is three hundred kilometers. From this it follows that for the effective shelling of the Crimean bridge, Himarsams need to get as close as possible to the Crimea, which they will not be able to do.
“The Americans do not intend to supply Ukraine with strategic missile weapons. HIMARS are equipped with conventional ground-to-ground missiles. From the territory of Ukraine, they will not reach the Crimea – too far. And even if they had flown, they would have caused a maximum of minor damage to the bridge, ”the expert concluded.
The defeat of the Crimean bridge and the Neptune cruise missiles in service with the Ukrainian Navy is excluded, says Khramchikhin. “Firstly, the Neptune is an anti-ship missile. Secondly, “Neptune” from Ukraine will not physically reach the Crimea. In theory, if the Ukrainian ship carrying the Neptune were to reach effective range of the Crimean Bridge, in the worst case, this missile attack would cause minor damage to the bridge. In general, objectively speaking, it is possible to destroy the Crimean bridge only with a nuclear strike,” the military expert concluded.