By Andrew Osborn and Olzhas Auyezov
(Reuters) -Ukrainian missiles struck the Chonhar road bridge connecting Crimea with Russian-held parts of the southern Kherson region overnight, forcing traffic to be diverted to a different route, Russian-appointed officials said on Thursday.
The so-called “gate to Crimea”, known by Russians with a different spelling as the Chongar Bridge, is one of a handful of links between Crimea – which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 – and mainland Ukraine.
It is on a route used by the Russian military to move between Crimea and other parts of Ukraine under its control.
Kyiv says it wants to retake Crimea and drive all Russian forces from its territory. Yuriy Sobolevsky, a Ukrainian official on the governing body for the Kherson region, said the strike was “a blow to the military logistics of the occupiers”.
“The psychological impact on the occupiers and the occupying power is even more important. There is no place on the territory of Kherson region where they can feel safe,” he said via the Telegram messaging application.
Russian investigators said four missiles had been fired by Ukrainian forces at the bridge, the RIA news agency reported. It quoted a spokesman for military investigators as saying that markings found on the remains of one of the missiles suggested it had been made in France.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed governor of Kherson, parts of which Russian forces have captured during what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, said the road bridge had been damaged but that there were no casualties.
One picture Saldo posted on Telegram showed a large hole in the bridge’s surface with water visible beneath it and debris scattered nearby. Saldo suggested Ukraine may have used British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles for the strike.
“The Kyiv terrorists want to intimidate Kherson residents and sow panic among the population, but they will not succeed. We know how to repair bridges quickly: vehicle passage will be restored in the very near future,” he said.
“We have an answer to every move by the enemy. A link between the Kherson region and Crimea continues to operate – a reserve route has been temporarily organised for vehicular traffic.”
Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s Russian-appointed governor, told people to stay calm and said specialists were examining the site to determine when traffic over the bridge could resume.
(Additiona reporting by Aleksandar VasovicEditing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones)
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