Crimea bridge blast damages key Russian supply route, and more updates from Ukraine

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — An explosion caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia on Saturday, damaging a key supply artery for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine. Russian authorities said a truck bomb caused the blast and that three people were killed.

The speaker of Crimea’s Kremlin-backed regional parliament immediately accused Ukraine of being behind the explosion, though Moscow didn’t apportion blame. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the destruction, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility.

The bombing came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70, dealing him a humiliating blow that could lead him to up the ante in his war on Ukraine. Hours after the explosion, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that the air force chief, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would be the commander of all Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

The statement marked the first official appointment of a single commander for the entire Russian force in Ukraine. Over the summer, the military announced that Surovikin was placed in charge of Russian troops in southern Ukraine.

In another potential setback for Putin, a Kremlin-backed official in Kherson, one of four Russia-annexed regions in Ukraine, announced a partial evacuation of civilians.