Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that the bridge linking the Crimea peninsula to Russia “brings war not peace” and was therefore a military target.
Explosions on the Crimea bridge on Monday killed two civilians and put part of the road bridge out of service, which had only recently returned to full operation after being severely damaged in a similar attack in October.
Ukraine welcomed Monday’s attack, but officials did not directly claim responsibility, and Moscow blamed Ukraine.
Crimea was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 and Kyiv wants to reclaim it as it fights back against Russia’s 17-month-long full-scale invasion.
The road and rail bridge, built by Russia and brought into service in 2018 was “not just a logistical road,” said Zelenskyy, speaking by video link to the Aspen security conference in the United States.
“This is the route used to feed the war with ammunition and this is being done on a daily basis. And it militarizes the Crimean peninsula,” Zelenskyy said in comments heard through an interpreter.
“For us, this is understandably an enemy facility built outside international laws and all applicable norms. So, understandably, this is a target for us. And a target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralized.”
Zelenskyy, answering questions from a moderator, denied any link between the attack and Russia’s withdrawal this week from a U.N.-backed deal to export grain from Ukrainian ports.
Russia, he said, had hindered the operation of the grain corridor from the very start.
“And later, they took this situation around the Crimea bridge, using it just as an example,” he said. “If not the Crimea bridge, they would have found another example, another reason.”
The Ukrainian military’s long-anticipated counteroffensive, launched last month, had taken time to prepare as Russian occupying forces had set up several defensive lines and extensively mined Ukrainian territory, Zelenskyy said.
The president repeated a previous assessment that the counteroffensive has been moving more slowly that he would like. The campaign has so far focused on capturing villages in the south and retaking areas seized by Russia in recent months in the east.
“Ukraine is not backtracking. It is progressively liberating its territories, which is very important,” Zelenskyy said.
“Still, I believe we are approaching a moment when relevant actions can gain pace. I do understand it is better to see that victory comes sooner. This is what we want too.”