Crimea bridge attack arrests as market in Donetsk region attacked
Russia says it has detained eight people in connection with Saturday’s explosion on a key bridge linking Russia to Crimea.
Its FSB security service said five of those held were Russians, while the others were Ukrainian and Armenian.
It says Kyiv was behind the attack but a Ukrainian official described Russia’s investigation as “nonsense”.
The news came as at least seven people were reported killed in an attack on a market in the eastern town of Avdiivka.
Donetsk regional military head Pavlo Kyrylenko said the strike in the Ukrainian-controlled town took place at a busy time, adding that at least eight others were injured.
He advised all residents of the region, which is partly Russian-occupied, to evacuate.
Elsewhere, three people, including a six-year-old girl, were seriously injured by shelling in Nikopol, in Dnipropetrovsk region, a Ukrainian presidential spokesman said.
Ukraine’s emergency ministry reported several S-300 missiles had fallen in and around Zaporizhzhia, with one destroying a residential building in a suburb. It said a family were pulled from the wreckage.
Meanwhile the BBC’s Hugo Bachega in Kyiv said five explosions had been heard in Kherson, one of the largest cities under Russian occupation, while there were unconfirmed reports that the air defence system in the southern city had been activated.
He said it was not clear what had triggered the explosions.
Ukraine’s military said its troops were continuing their advance in the region, capturing another five settlements.
The blast on the Crimean Bridge was a powerful symbolic blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opened the bridge in 2018, four years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
President Vladimir Putin called it an “act of terrorism” aimed at destroying a critically important piece of Russia’s civil infrastructure.
FSB officials said the blast was organised by “the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, its head Kyrylo Budanov, its staff and agents”.
They alleged the explosives had been hidden in rolls of plastic film and taken on a roundabout route from the Ukrainian port of Odesa – first by sea to Bulgaria, then Georgia, and then driven by lorry overland into Russia via Armenia.
But a spokesman for the directorate, Andriy Yusov, rubbished the Russian accusations.
“All the activities of the FSB and [Russia’s] Investigative Committee are nonsense,” he told Ukrainian media. “They are fake structures which serve the Putin regime, so we’re definitely not going to comment on their latest announcements.”
Russian forces retaliated on Monday with a wave of missile strikes across the country, including on central Kyiv, killing 19 people.
Asked by the BBC on Wednesday whether the aims of Russia’s special military operation – what Moscow calls its invasion – remained the same, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were “exactly the same”.
“These goals only become more relevant against the backdrop of the actions of the Ukrainian regime,” he said.
In February when he launched the invasion, Mr Putin called for the “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine, terms he uses for the overthrow of the Ukrainian authorities, which Moscow baselessly considers “fascist”.
Following more strikes on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged countries to hit Moscow with more sanctions in response to “a new wave of terror”.
The calls came after he met the G7 group of nations for emergency virtual talks on Tuesday.
The bloc – which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US – promised to continue providing “financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal” support to his country “for as long as it takes”.
Nato also said it would stand with Ukraine for as long as necessary, as ministers gather for two days of talks in Brussels.
The bloc’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to scale up its provision of air defence to Ukraine, with both long-and short-range systems to cope with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones.
Separately, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi said that external power has been restored to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in occupied southern Ukraine after earlier saying the plant had lost external power for the second time in five days.
“This repeated loss of #ZNPP’s off-site power is a deeply worrying development and it underlines the urgent need for a nuclear safety & security protection zone around the site,” he said when reporting the latest outage.
Also Ukrainian nuclear agency Enerhoatom said in a post on Telegram that the Russian authorities at the plant, the largest in Europe, were not allowing it to deliver fresh supplies of diesel fuel.
Moscow seized the massive facility in March, but kept on its Ukrainian staff. Both Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of repeatedly shelling the plant, amid global concerns that this could lead to a major radiation incident in Europe.