Ukraine Destroys Key Rail Bridge Connecting Occupied Mariupol to Russia

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Ukrainian forces have destroyed a key new Russian logistics link deep in Moscow-held territory, according to a Ukrainian official, in what may be a blow to Russia’s future ability to move resources to and from southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian fighters attacked a railway bridge, which is still under construction, in southern Donetsk on Saturday, Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the exiled mayor of Mariupol, said in a post to messaging app Telegram on Sunday.

Russia lost the “half-built railway bridge,” along with fuel tanks around the village of Hranitne, northeast of Mariupol, Andriushchenko said. The bridge was intended to be part of a “direct railway from Russia,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry did not mention a strike on its logistics on Saturday or Sunday. Over the weekend, Moscow said its forces had attacked Ukrainian troops around the destroyed village of Vuhledar, as well as Novomykhailivka and Staromaiorske, to the northwest of Hranitne. Russia attacked more than 10 settlements, including Vuhledar and Staromaiorske, over the previous day, Ukraine’s military said on Sunday.

Railway freight cars on April 28, 2023 in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine. Ukrainian fighters attacked a railway bridge, which is still under construction, in southern Donetsk on Saturday, an adviser to the exiled mayor of Mariupol, said..
Viktor Fridshon/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Newyork Verified has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.

Andriushchenko posted information about the bridge in late September, saying it would be part of a railway network linking the southern port city of Mariupol, the Donetsk city of Volnovakha to the north of Mariupol, and the regional capital of Donetsk City, to the northeast. The new line would connect to the southwestern Russian cities of Taganrog and Rostov-on-Don, he said at the time.

Russia uses railways to transport troops and supplies up and down the Ukrainian territory it controls, and Ukraine has repeatedly targeted these links. “Rail logistics continues to be a vital component in sustaining Russia’s invasion,” the British Defense Ministry said in October 2023.

“The rail network in occupied Ukraine remains largely viable but vulnerable to sporadic interdiction by Ukrainian artillery, air launched missiles and sabotage,” the U.K. government evaluated in the fall.

“Russia almost certainly continues to maintain and improve its rail lines of communication in Ukraine and is constructing a new railway line to Mariupol which will reduce travel times for supplies to the Zaporizhzhia front,” the British Defense Ministry added.

The bridge would drastically reduce Russia’s dependence on railway links through the Crimean Bridge, Andriushchenko added.

Pushing down through the “land bridge” from the current front lines in Donetsk to the Russian-controlled city of Mariupol, which sits on the Sea of Azov, was one of Kyiv’s aims with its summer counteroffensive. But despite some localized wins, Ukraine ultimately fell far short of this ambitious goal, which also included rolling back Russian control to Melitopol and Berdiansk.

The Russian “land bridge” is a swathe of Moscow-controlled territory in southeastern Ukraine, sweeping down from the eastern Donbas to Russian-annexed Crimea.

Shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, it built the Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge. It is a key route for military supplies passing through the peninsula and for maintaining the Kremlin’s war effort in southern Ukraine.

The Kerch Bridge has come under attack several times from Ukrainian long-range missiles.