Russia’s domestic intelligence service said Wednesday it arrested eight people in connection with a blast that damaged a key bridge to the annexed Crimean Peninsula, blaming Ukraine for an incident that dealt a high-profile blow to President Vladimir Putin.
The weekend explosion, which Russian investigators said killed three people and was caused by a truck bomb, temporarily halted train and car traffic over the Kerch bridge — a structure with huge strategic and symbolic value to the Kremlin.
In a press release Wednesday, the FSB said Ukraine’s military intelligence and its chief, Kyrylo Budanov, were behind the attack. It also said five Russian citizens, as well as three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia, who were involved in the operation had been detained.
NBC News could not verify the claims, which Kyiv immediately dismissed.
According to the Russian intelligence service, the explosive device that was used to blow up the bridge was concealed in rolls of construction film, and was shipped from Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa to Bulgaria in early August before being moved through Georgia and Armenia and into Russia earlier this month. The explosive was detonated as it was being carried in a truck toward Crimea on Saturday, the FSB said. All the while, Ukrainian agents were in control of the operation, it added.
A press officer for Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Andrii Yusov, declined to comment, telling NBC News: “We are not commenting on the statements made by terrorists.”
Kyiv has not taken responsibility for the blast, but some high-ranking Ukrainian officials cheered the damage to a bridge which has served as a key supply route for Russian forces as well as a marker of Putin’s claims to the region he illegally annexed in 2014.
Ukraine and most countries don’t recognize that annexation and consider Crimea Ukrainian territory. Kyiv has vowed to reclaim the peninsula along with all the territory occupied by Russian forces since the start of the full-scale invasion nearly eight months ago.
Putin swiftly labeled the bridge blast “terrorism” and boasted that the deadly aerial barrage his military unleashed on Ukrainian cities earlier this week was an act of revenge.