Russia accuses Ukraine of organizing Crimea bridge blast

In this Oct 8, 2022 file photo, a helicopter drops water to stop fire on the Crimean Bridge connecting the Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait, in Kerch, Crimea. (PHOTO / AP)

MOSCOW/KYIV/WASHINGTON – The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian military was responsible for a recent deadly explosion on the Crimean Bridge.

"The organizer of the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge was the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, its head Kirill Budanov, employees and agents," the FSB said in a statement on the findings of an investigation into the incident.

A camouflaged explosive device was hidden in a batch of construction materials, which was shipped from the Ukrainian seaport of Odessa to the Bulgarian city of Ruse in early August, it said.

The cargo was delivered to Georgia and then Armenia before arriving at a wholesale depot in south Russia's Krasnodar region on Oct 6, according to the FSB.

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A day later, with the assistance of two Ukrainian citizens and five Russian nationals, the documents on the sender and recipient of the cargo were changed, and the freight was loaded into the truck of a Russian citizen, it added.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister accused the West of attempting to escalate the situation through "nuclear rhetoric" and a possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction

The truck exploded on the morning of Oct 8 while traveling on the road part of the Crimean Bridge, causing seven fuel tanks of a train heading to the Crimean Peninsula to catch fire. Three people were killed in the blast, which also led to the partial collapse of two spans of the road bridge.

The FSB said an employee of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, who introduced himself as "Ivan Ivanovich," controlled the movement of the cargo along the entire route and contacted participants in the crime with a virtual anonymous phone number purchased on the internet and a phone number registered under the name of a Ukrainian citizen.

So far, five Russian citizens and three nationals of Ukraine and Armenia, who participated in the preparation for the crime, have been detained, the FSB said, adding that the investigation continues and all those responsible will be held accountable.

Zelensky briefs UN chief on Russian attacks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted Tuesday he had informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in detail about the scale and consequences of the Russian attacks.

The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine and grain exports from Ukraine were also discussed, he added.

Power restored

Power has been restored in 3,800 settlements across Ukraine after the attacks had resulted in power cut in 3,900 on Monday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Tuesday on Telegram, adding that restoration work was ongoing in central regions.

He called for limiting electricity consumption, such as not turning on energy-intensive appliances during peak hours from 5 pm to 11 pm, to keep the energy system stable.

Given the danger of the attacks, students in educational institutions and preschools in Kyiv will study online until the end of this week, and kindergartens will be closed, Mykola Povoroznyk, first deputy head of the Kyiv City State Administration, was quoted as saying Tuesday by the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency.

GOP members question US aid to Ukraine

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict is trending toward further escalation and the Joe Biden administration remains committed to providing continuous assistance to Kyiv, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been doubtful of the administration's end goal – if there is one.

Projecting a bumpy road ahead for additional US security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine if the Republican Party wins back the House in the upcoming midterm elections, The Hill in a Wednesday report quoted Scott Perry, GOP congressman representing Pennsylvania, as saying the Biden administration lacks a clear goal for arming Ukraine while problems at home remain to be tackled.

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"We all want to help. At the same time, you know, we've got problems in our own country that remain unresolved, and we have no idea what the administration's plan is. Like, what's the end state? Where are we headed?" Perry, also chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was quoted as saying. "Are our tax dollars being used wisely?"

On Twitter, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert slammed Biden's request that Congress approve $13.7 billion in additional aid for Ukraine. "Biden needs to understand that we are the USA not the US-ATM," she tweeted last month.

The US provided an additional round of security assistance to Ukraine worth $625 million earlier this month, bringing the total since Biden took office to over $17.5 billion.

After Russia’s firing of missiles to attack multiple Ukrainian cities on Monday, Biden vowed that the US will "stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes" and "provide the support necessary for Ukrainian forces to defend their country and their freedom." 

‘West attempting to escalate situation’

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview posted on the ministry's website on Tuesday that the West was attempting to escalate the situation through "nuclear rhetoric" and a possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction.

"A direct clash with the United States and NATO is not in Russia's interests," he said, warning the West of a dangerous situation that uncontrolled escalation could lead to.

He said the West was becoming more actively involved in the conflict, as it continued providing Ukraine with large-scale assistance in the form of personnel training as well as intelligence and realtime satellite imagery.