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Happy birthday, Mr Putin — the explosion on the Crimean Bridge sheds light on your aura of invincibility

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Liubov Abravitova is the Ambassador of Ukraine to South Africa.

You cannot imagine the meaning of the Crimean Bridge for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Heaps of patriotic propaganda were based on this bridge. Putin’s image of the ‘strong leader’ was based on Crimea and this $4bn bridge. What can I say here, except: Happy 70th birthday!

My day started with news from home: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pride and joy, the monument of his so-called victory in Crimea, the symbol of his dreams of becoming the almighty ruler of the land that once was the USSR was up in flames on my computer screen.

Putin’s ambitions to control Ukraine were on fire and in the sea after the Crimea bridge — the main connection between mainland Russia and Crimea — was attacked. “Everything is going according to plan” ended up in the sea, along with a huge chunk of the bridge’s road and railway tracks severely damaged by the explosion.

This isn’t the first massive loss for Putin personally and for Russia in general, but this one has to hurt the most — especially, the morning after Putin celebrated his 70th birthday. So, to prologue the celebrations, let’s remember the biggest losses Putin has faced during his unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

The Crimean Bridge

The Crimean, or Kerchensky, Bridge was hastily built after the annexation of Crimea to connect the mainland with occupied Ukrainian land. This particular bridge has the status of strategic importance, meaning Russia awarded it the “highest level of defence”. Thus, this bridge was supposed to be fully protected from every single angle — the land, the sea, and, of course, the sky. But, just like everything else Russia promised, this pledge of protection failed miserably.

The bridge wasn’t destroyed, it was damaged. And, while building a new section to replace the one that fell into the water could take some time, the burnt railroad can probably be repaired soon. But this is probably just the start, as the Crimean bridge is of particular importance, not just because it’s the symbol of Putin’s only victory, but because it is the main artery for Russia to deliver weapons, machinery and soldiers to the south of Ukraine. 

Heaps of patriotic propaganda were based on this bridge. Putin’s image of the “strong leader” was based on Crimea and this bridge. Russian taxpayers paid a whopping $4-billion for its construction. Russian state media received millions of dollars to depict this bridge as Putin’s greatest accomplishment that connected annexed Crimea with the mainland and “made it Russia”.

What can I say here, except: Happy 70th birthday, Mr Putin!


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The retake of the Kharkiv area

The Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the occupied territories of the Kharkiv Oblast started on 6 September and in just 10-15 days the whole territory was free of Russian forces.

Russia publicly declared its defeat by announcing the “troop pullback from Ukraine’s Kharkiv area”, unsurprisingly, claiming it was part of some genius plan. It’s now the middle of October and it’s safe to say that the plan was to arm the Ukrainian military with a huge amount of equipment, tanks and artillery systems and tons of shells and mines. Our soldiers call it the “Russian Lend Lease”.

A lot of the machinery Russia abandoned was in good condition and ready to use, but some needed repairs. Most of it is already up and running and helping our army retake new territories in Donbas.

Ukrainian soldiers also found thousands of “Made in USSR” artillery shells that we ran out of a long time ago, and now we can use more of the weapons we have on hand. These trophies were used to recently retake Lyman, a city in the Donetsk region that spent just over a day “in Russia” after its sham referendums. And, already, we’ve liberated a lot of land in Luhansk and Kherson.

So, one might say, after the Kharkiv region counteroffensive Russia became our biggest supplier of heavy military machinery. It was reported that Ukrainian forces got hold of 460 tanks, 92 self-propelled howitzers, 448 infantry fighting vehicles, 195 armoured fighting vehicles and 44 rocket launchers. Amazing, isn’t it? A glorious plan of President Putin!  

The sinking of the flagship Moskva 

The sinking of the Russian flagship, like the explosion on the Crimean bridge, had ideological as well as military value. We’ve destroyed many Russian military ships during the war, but sinking this 510-crew guided missile cruiser that led Russia’s naval assault on Ukraine was a thing of beauty.

The Moskva was an important target because it supposedly had the best “non-analogue” air defence on board and Putin bragged about the Moskva a lot.

The flagship was a shield for all of the other Russian navy ships transporting military cargo. It took exactly two Ukrainian-made Neptune missiles to sink Russia’s $750-million flagship. The number of crew members that drowned on the ship is still unknown.  

The destroyed military air base in Crimea

The largest Russian military air base in Saki, a city in Crimea, was attacked in August — an attack that not only destroyed beyond repair a huge number of extremely valuable warplanes but also led to Russia having to move its air bases from Crimea.

Russia, of course, claimed that absolutely nothing was damaged at the base. They keep forgetting that we have satellites, and their images reveal the true facts.

Independent analysts at Oryx Research said “at least 11 Russian jets — four Su-30SMs and seven Su-24s — were destroyed, based on analysis of the imagery released by satellite companies and Ukraine’s air force”.

Ukraine is significantly smaller than Russia. Russia is approximately 17,098,242km², while Ukraine is about 603,550km². Furthermore, Russia is a nuclear power with a population of 140 million and we are a country of 40 million.

They’ve attacked us with all their might. They’ve destroyed many of our cities and villages, they mass-kill, they torture, they rape and terrorise. We are standing tall against pure evil and have many unbelievable wins to show for it. DM

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