EXPLAINED: Why Russia is investing so much to protect the Kerch Bridge

Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia was reliant on resupplying the area by sea.

Under President Putin’s direct patronage, Russia built the Kerch Road/Rail Bridge – at 12 miles (19.31 km) long the longest road bridge in Europe – to link the Russian mainland with Crimea.

The bridge was opened by President Putin on 15 May 2018.

Ukraine was not consulted about the construction and did not provide permission for the bridge to be built.

Since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Kerch Bridge has been a bottleneck for Russian military logistic supplies to southern occupied Ukraine.

Ukraine has declared the bridge a legitimate target – particularly the half located within Ukrainian waters – and attacked the bridge on 8 October 2022.

Following the huge explosion, the bridge remained closed until February 2023, since when there have been a number of further Ukrainian attacks, the most recent of 12 August 2022.

To protect the bridge Russia has resorted to a number of passive measures, which have included truck-mounted smoke generators, radar decoys mounted on boats, and active air defence systems.

However, there is now evidence that Russia has sunk a series of vessels to act as a physical barrier to any maritime drone attacks.

Satellite imagery from 29 August shows a series of sunken ships, linked by booms, with those ships sunk near the southern section of bridge resting 160m apart – near where the last Ukrainian drone attack was mounted.

Protecting structures by using sunken vessels is not a new idea; however, it does demonstrate the extreme measures that Russia is prepared to take to try to protect this vital resupply route for Russia’s war effort.

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