Saturday's explosion on the critical road-and-rail bridge connecting Russia and the Crimean peninsula tore down sections of the road carrying traffic in one way, disrupting a vital supply line for Russian forces in Ukraine.
The explosion on the Kerch bridge, for which Russia did not immediately assign responsibility, provoked signals of jubilation from Ukrainian leaders, but no direct claims of guilt.
Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and President Vladimir Putin opened the 19-kilometer bridge connecting it to Russia's transportation network with considerable fanfare four years later.
It is now a significant supply route for the Russian forces that have gained control of most of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, as well as for the naval port of Sevastopol, whose governor has urged inhabitants to "remain calm. "Do not panic!
It was not yet known if the explosion was an intentional attack or an accident, but the damage to such high-profile infrastructure occurred at a time when Russia has suffered many military reverses and could cast doubt on Kremlin assurances that the conflict is proceeding as planned.
Additionally, it occurred one day after Putin's 70th birthday.
Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, tweeted a video of the burning bridge alongside a video of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy birthday, Mr. President" on social media.
Since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, Ukrainian officials have made frequent references to their wish to destroy the Kerch bridge, a symbol of Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine. The Ukrainian postal service said on Saturday that a commemorative stamp would be printed in honor of the explosion.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that Kyiv's response to the destruction of civilian infrastructure "demonstrates its terrorist nature."
At 6:07 a.m. (0307 GMT), according to the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a freight truck exploded on the bridge's highway, igniting seven fuel tanker wagons on a train headed towards the peninsula on the bridge's upper level.
It was reported that two spans of a road bridge had partially fallen, but that the arch crossing the Kerch Strait, the canal where ships transit between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, was unharmed.
Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian governor of Crimea, stated on social media that the road bridge was still intact in one direction, even though the traffic was prohibited until the extent of the damage could be determined.
Images released on social media showed one-half of the roadway blown away and the other half still intact but damaged, along with a train engulfed in flames on the higher bridge. The photographs could not be verified immediately.
Other images captured from a distance revealed dense smoke coming from a portion of the bridge.
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that the incident was "just the beginning" but refrained from claiming that the Ukrainian military was responsible for the explosion.
Mykhailo Podolyak wrote, "Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, and everything occupied by Russia must be expelled."
Moscow has portrayed the predominantly Russian-speaking Crimea as a historic and beloved part of Russia and, especially this year, as a place where huge numbers of Russians could vacation ostensibly in safety despite the war.
Russian-installed deputy administrator of the Kherson region Kirill Stremousov stated that the bridge incident "will not significantly impact the army supply."
However, there would be logistical issues in Crimea, he added in a social media post.
Mykola Bielieskov of the Ukrainian Institute of Strategic Studies, which advises the Kyiv president, stated that the Kerch bridge was irreplaceable for Russia's invading forces and that if it were destroyed, "the entire Russian southern front would collapse swiftly."
Even though Moscow's forces have seized a portion of the Ukrainian coastline that connects the Kherson region and Crimea to Russia, Bielieskov stated that the transport connections were poor and that Russia preferred to send reinforcements to Kherson via the longer route of the bridge into Crimea.
Russian Railways stated that trains bound for Crimea would be subject to additional inspections and that it was collaborating with the government to determine the "best way to deliver cargo to the peninsula."
Aksyonov, the governor of Crimea, stated in a video message that he wished to "reassure Crimeans that the Republic of Crimea is properly supplied with fuel and food. We have more than a month's supply of food and fuel."
Additionally, the Russian governor of Sevastopol, which has a distinct territorial status in Crimea as the home of the Black Sea navy, sought to reassure citizens.
"We are not separated from the continent!" Mikhail Razvozzhayev posted on Telegram. "Keep calm. "Do not panic!
Putin celebrates his birthday in a low-key manner as strains on Ukraine increase.