Russia's Crimean Bridge unlikely to be fully operational until late 2023 - UK Intel

The Ukrainian attack on Kerch Bridge was considered to be a success, as well as a significant moral boost, to the Ukrainian forces. 

 A helicopter drops water to extinguish fuel tanks ablaze on the Kerch bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea (photo credit: REUTERS)
A helicopter drops water to extinguish fuel tanks ablaze on the Kerch bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Despite Russia's efforts to repair the Kerch Bridge, it is unlikely that the bridge will be fully operational until at least September 2023, according to British Intelligence. 

Currently, only one rail track is open, and rail transport remains restricted. The repair efforts are "heavily dependent on weather conditions through the winter months," according to the Intelligence update.

On November 8, Russia started the construction of the first 64-meter span replacement, out of four needed in order to fully replace the damaged bridge. Russia has claimed that the reconstruction should be over by December 20. However, British Intelligence assesses that a briefing presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the replacement will not end until at least March 2023.

The Kerch Bridge attack has successfully disrupted Russia's logistic supplies for the Russian-held territories in southern Ukraine. It has also reduced Russia's ability to move military equipment and troops into the area by rail or road. 

The damage to the bridge, alongside the recent attacks on the Black Sea Fleet and Russia's withdrawal from Kherson, damaged Russia's ability to claim military success, according to British Intelligence.

Previous British Intelligence update claimed that the logistical supply flow has changed due to the bridge being shut down, with the supply arriving mostly through occupied Mariupol, as part of a Russian attempt to compensate for the reduced supply capacity of the Kerch Bridge.

Ukrainian forces arrived in the strategic city of Kherson on Friday and were received as liberators by the local Kherson residents, after several months under Russian control. Videos on social media showed Kherson residents greeting Ukrainian troops, singing the national anthem and flying the Ukrainian flag over administrative buildings.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "Today is a historic day. We are in the process of taking Kherson back."

"As of now, our defenders are on the outskirts of the city, and we are very close to entering. But special units are already in the city," he added.

The Kerch Bridge attack

The attack itself took place on October 8, killing 3 people and was immediately considered to be a Ukrainian success on the operational level as well as a significant moral boost to the Ukrainian forces. 

The Kerch Bridge, which connects the Crimea peninsula to Russia, is 19 kilometers long (11.8 miles) and was built by Russia after it declared Crimea to be Russian territory in 2014. Russia has used the bridge to move military equipment, ammunition and personnel to battlefields in southern Ukraine.