Russian forces are practicing how to hide the exposed Kerch Bridge – a pet project of Vladimir Putin - that links mainland Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

British intelligence yesterday revealed that, on May 24, Russian units created a smoke screen that partially masked the bridge.

The exercise was conducted by specialized NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) military units of the Russian army, but British military intelligence questioned Russia’s capabilities in “maskirovka,” the practice of camouflage and deception.

Kerch Bridge: Putin’s Prestige Prize

The Kerch Bridge, which is also known as the Crimean Bridge, a four-lane road and double-track railway that spans the Kerch strait between the Kerch peninsula in Crimea and the Taman peninsula in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. 

It is 19 kilometers long – which is the longest bridge in Europe and the longest ever constructed by Russia at a cost of $3.7 billion.

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The bridge was completed in May 2018 when Putin said that “in different historical epochs, even under the tsar priests, people dreamed of building this bridge.”

 

“Then they returned to this [idea] in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s. And finally, thanks to your work and your talent, the miracle has happened,” Russia’s autocrat said. 

Because the bridge effectively blocks off the Azov Sea, Russia used it as a de facto blockade for ships seeking to enter the now occupied Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

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On October 8, 2022, there was an explosion on the roadway portion of the bridge, causing parts of it to collapse and starting a large fire on the rail bridge.

The bombing came the day after the Russian dictator’s 70th birthday.

Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attack, which Russia said was carried out by a truck bomb. However, one senior Ukrainian official posted a “happy birthday” message.

The road bridge was re-opened on February 23, 2023, and the railway part of the bridge on May 5, 2023.

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Escape Route for Nervous Russians

During April and May 2023, Russian officials claimed that Ukraine launched more than ten drones attacking Crimea.

Multiple blasts were reported to have struck the occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

Since last summer, Russian military bases and oil storage facilities in Crimea were struck by a series of explosions and fires.

 

In such instances, social media images have emerged of Russians on a jam-packed Kerch Bridge, presumably leaving for safety prior to further Ukrainian attacks.

Maskirovka: 100 Years of Practice

‘Maskirovka’ is the use of deception to confuse one’s opponent.

The concept of has been part of Russian military doctrine since before World War I.

Some of its tactics include decoys, dummies, smokescreens, disinformation, false trails and manipulation of radio communications.

It is of course closely related to strategic propaganda and psyops, but more oriented to the battlefield level.

One example during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been the dispatching of “humanitarian convoys” to occupied Donetsk – which were most likely filled with military equipment.

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