Russia says it thwarted attacks on Crimea bridge, which was briefly closed for a third time


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that its forces destroyed three Ukrainian naval drones being used in an attempt to attack a key bridge linking Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea, forcing its temporary closure for a third time in less than a year.

One naval drone was destroyed late Friday and two others early Saturday morning, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.

A key supply route for Kremlin forces in the war with Ukraine, the Kerch bridge has come under repeated attack since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

An explosion in October, which Russian authorities said was caused by a truck bomb, left three people dead. A further attack on the bridge in July, killing a couple and seriously wounding their daughter, left a span of the roadway hanging perilously.

The bridge connecting Crimea and Russia carries heavy significance for Moscow, both logistically and psychologically, as a key artery for military and civilian supplies and as an assertion of Kremlin control of the peninsula it annexed in 2014.

Two Ukrainian drones were also intercepted in Russia’s Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported.

A woman was wounded Saturday during shelling of a village in the Kursk region, also bordering Ukraine, regional Gov. Roman Starovoit said. He blamed Ukraine for the shelling.

Ukrainian authorities, which generally avoid commenting on attacks on Russian soil, didn’t say whether they launched the attacks. Drone strikes and shelling on the Russian border regions are a regular occurrence.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Saturday that over the previous 24 hours Russia had launched four missile strikes and 39 airstrikes, in addition to 42 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

U.K. military officials said Saturday that Russia risks splitting its forces in an attempt to prevent a Ukrainian breakthrough in Ukraine’s south. According to British intelligence, Ukrainian forces continued to take offensive action on the Orikhiv axis in southern Ukraine, with units reaching the first Russian main defensive line.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Friday that Kyiv’s troops were advancing in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks next week, the Kremlin announced Friday, just over six weeks after Moscow broke off a deal brokered by Ankara and the U.N. that allowed Ukrainian grain to reach world markets safely despite the 18-month war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Erdogan would meet Monday in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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