Crimea rocked by “explosions” after reported ATACMS strike

Several explosions were heard in eastern Crimea overnight, according to local reports, as Russia says it shot down several Western-provided long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles.

Local Telegram channels reported a string of explosions in the eastern Crimean city of Kerch between Wednesday and Thursday. Russian independent media outlet Astra reported that “around 20 explosions” were audible in the city, citing local residents. Newsweek has as yet been unable to verify these reports and reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry and the Ukrainian military via email for comment and clarification.

Kerch sits on the very east of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow has controlled for a decade but Kyiv has vowed to reclaim. Ukraine frequently targets sites in Crimea, and has previously zeroed in on the Kerch Strait Bridge linking the peninsula to mainland Russia.

Also known as the Crimean Bridge, it is a key road and rail connection for Moscow to maintain the flow of supplies to the peninsula, and to its forces fighting in southern mainland Ukraine. It is the only direct land link between Russia and Crimea. North and eastern parts of Crimea, including Kerch, look out onto the Sea of Azov.

A view taken on October 14, 2022 shows the Kerch Strait Bridge that links Crimea to Russia, near Kerch, which was hit by a blast on October 8, 2022. Several explosions were heard in the…

Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that its air defenses had shot down eight ATACMS missiles over the Sea of Azov overnight, as well as eight airborne drones over the Black Sea close to Crimea.

Nikolai Lukashenko, the Russian-installed transport minister for Crimea, said two ferries were damaged by missile fragments as Russian defenses intercepted a Ukrainian attack on transport infrastructure in Kerch overnight. There were no casualties, he said in a statement posted to social media and carried by Russian state media. Traffic was temporarily stopped across the bridge, according to local reports.

The 12-mile-long Crimean Bridge was unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018. Since the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine in February 2022, the bridge has been struck and repaired several times. For Ukraine, taking out the bridge would have not only strategic value, but also symbolic weight.

“The bridge is doomed,” Vasyl Maliuk, the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, has previously said.

Kyiv has targeted the bridge using homegrown drones, and Russian officials have accused Ukraine of using Western-provided long-range missiles to target the Chonhar Bridge, connecting Crimea with mainland Ukraine.

Long-range missiles, such as the British-supplied Storm Shadow, French-donated SCALP and U.S.-provided ATACMS, allow Kyiv to strike important Russian assets far beyond the current front lines in mainland Ukraine.

Kyiv’s attacks on the wider peninsula have been one of the most successful parts of Ukraine’s war effort, targeting Russia’s Black Sea Fleet partially based in the southwestern city of Sevastopol, and other Russian military bases in Crimea.