AT LEAST two are dead after Vladimir Putin’s beloved £3billion Crimea Bridge was rocked by massive explosions.
Two blasts rang out on the 12-mile crossing in the early hours of Monday morning as hundreds of motorists travelled across it.
Traffic was brought to a standstill due to what was initially described as an “emergency” on the Russian side of the bridge.
Dramatic images show mangled metal barriers on the warped roadway, which is a major supply route for Putin’s troops fighting in Ukraine.
One appears to show how a section of the carriageway was obliterated by the blast, causing it to slump into the water below.
Explosions rang out at both 03:04 and 03:20 local time, according to reports, shaking stunned drivers as they sat in their cars.
Chaos erupted following the strikes near the Crimean end of the heavily guarded road and rail link.
A couple has been killed and their 14-year-old daughter seriously injured after their car was struck in one of the two blasts.
The family, from Belgorod region, was en route to the holiday peninsula according to the region’s governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.
The schoolgirl is in a “serious condition” in hospital.
Their relatives travelling in another car horrifically saw their lifeless bodies as they navigated the treacherous road.
Ukrainian channel Crimean Wind warned Russians to avoid travelling to the disputed peninsula annexed by Putin in 2014.
They also threatened that ferries on the same route are “legitimate targets”.
“The fact that you should not go to the Crimea at all, we warned even earlier,” said the post.
“Now all cars are turning around on both sides of the bridge. There are two options: either on the ferry or home.
“And the two “ferries”, we recall, are large [naval] landing ships, which are also legitimate targets for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Video from the bridge showed damage to the structure amid scenes of confusion and panic from tourists.
Tourists were seen telling a wounded woman in a black car not to move but to await assistance.
It was initially unclear how great the structural damage is to the crossing.
The bridge had been previously attacked in a bomb explosion in October 2022.
In the latest incident one span and a support pillar “collapsed”, according to eyewitnesses.
Russia immediately blamed Ukraine’s armed forces for the explosions but it was initially unclear if the attack was by missile, kamikaze sea drone or an explosion in a vehicle crossing the structure – or who was responsible.
Initial Russian suspicions focused on marine drones.
Debris of a suspected kamikaze marine drone was found near the bridge, reported Mash media outlet.
Reports have began to circulate claiming that Ukraine’s Security Service and Naval Forces orchestrated the attack.
A source told the BBC that they led the “special operation” that has been branded terrorism by furious Russian officials.
They claimed the bridge had been targeted with surface drones, saying: “It was difficult to reach the bridge, but in the end it was possible.”
The attack came as the Russian authorities had vocally encouraged people to visit the Black Sea peninsula despite it being in the war zone.
Queues of traffic immediately worsened during the night as the bridge became inoperable.
Vladimir Putin was reported to have been woken, and an emergency meeting of Russia’s security council was expected.
Ambulances were seeking to reach the location of the emergency.
Wounded people were reportedly trapped inside a vehicle on the bridge.
Sergey Aksyonov, Moscow-appointed ruler of Crimea, said:
“Given the current situation, I ask residents and guests of the peninsula to refrain from travelling over the Crimean Bridge and, for security reasons, to choose an alternative land route through new regions.”
The occupation official said: “Traffic has been stopped on the Crimea Bridge.
“An emergency occurred in the area of the 145th support from the Krasnodar region.
“Law enforcement agencies and all responsible services are working.
“I spoke with the Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Vitaly Savelyev.
“Measures are being taken to restore the situation.
“We keep in touch with colleagues from the Krasnodar region,.”
The crossing links Krasnodar to Crimea over the Kerch Strait between the Black and Azov seas.
There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainians.
Putin illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
The bridge, a major engineering feat, was Putin’s flagship project and the dictator opened the crossing in 2018.
It comprises a separate roadway and railway, both supported by concrete stilts.
The middle section is a wider span held by steel arches allowing shipping to pass underneath.
Traffic was halted today on both road and rail sections of the crossing.
One train had been held on the Krasnodar side of the crossing for almost two hours on the Krasnodar side with no explanation to passengers, said Telegram reports.
It was built by a company owned by Arkady Rotenberg, a close personal friend and former judo partner of Putin.
The bridge is key for Russian supplies and tourist traffic to the spectacular peninsula.
It is also used as a military supply route.
Ferries – including naval landing ships – have web deployed across the Kerch Strait.
This followed enhanced security checks in recent weeks amid fears of a new strike by Ukraine.
In early July, a video from the Ukrainian defence ministry warned of the risk of attacks in Crimea.
The message stated: “Big plans this summer?
“A travel advisory is in effect for certain beaches.
“We warned you last summer to stay away from Crimea.”
There was a key Russian fear that disgruntled Wagner fighters turning against Putin could attack the bridge, said Telegram channel Ukrainian channel InformNapalm two weeks ago.
Its post stated: “Who is the most terrible saboteur in Russia now?
“That’s right, Wagner PMC [Private Military Company] rebels.
“It is possible that some attentive people passed information to the FSB that the Wagnerites are preparing to bring explosives and ammunition to Crimea, because the agreements on the part of the Kremlin have not been fully implemented.”
Pictures and video showed extensive damage to the crossing, especially on the highway towards Kerch in Crimea.
A section of the bridge is slumped and twisted after the blasts on the crossing, its metalwork mangled and contorted.
One of the sections of the bridge “partially sank”, said an onlooker.
The scale of the damage is a deep blow to Vladimir Putin who asserted on Sunday that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had failed.
The damage is visible from Kerch.
“It’s very bad, in real life it looks very bad, there are hard dips,” said the source.
It was not immediately clear if the supporting pillars of the bridge suffered structural damage – but the roadway is badly mutilated.