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15 Aug, 2022 08:31

British leaders discussed 'destruction' of Crimean bridge – Ukrainian MP

Britain’s Defence Secretary Wallace and PM Johnson allegedly talked about attacking the structure
British leaders discussed 'destruction' of Crimean bridge – Ukrainian MP

A Ukrainian lawmaker says he discussed the “destruction” of Europe's longest bridge with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in June.

Aleksey Goncharenko was responding to a claim on Russian television that Wallace was personally in charge of developing a plan to strike the strategically important crossing, linking Crimea to the Krasnodar region.

The remark, which Goncharenko made on Telegram, last week, included a photo of himself with Wallace and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a NATO gathering. It was captioned "Tell [host Olga] Skabeeva that Ben Wallace and I discussed a plan to destroy the Crimean Bridge back in June."

The allegation arose during a TV appearance by Russian military expert and journalist Igor Konashenko, who said that “according to some information”, the British defence minister was in charge of developing plans to attack the bridge, which connects Crimea with mainland Russia across the Kerch Strait.

The bridge was built by Russia after Crimea broke away from Ukraine and voted to rejoin Russia in 2014 to ensure that there were railway and road links with the region.

The Ukrainian government earlier dismissed calls for it to be destroyed, but Kiev now considers the bridge to be a primary military target that should be attacked as soon as it receives Western weapons capable of striking it.

Konashenko was on air to share his thoughts on this revised position, which Ukrainian Major General Dmitry Marchenko announced last month. The UK is a major supplier of advanced heavy weapons to Kiev, most notably the M270 multiple rocket launchers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the general’s statement, saying that it was hardly novel. “We are certainly aware of such threats and take them into consideration,” he said at the time. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed confidence that any plans to attack the bridge would fail.

Goncharenko is a controversial political figure in Ukraine who has a record of anti-Russian publicity stunts and posts.

One of his latest is a picture of the Crimea Bridge with the dog from the “It’s fine” meme sitting on it. “A good remark from comments: add some fire,” he wrote under the picture. In the original work the anthropomorphic dog sits in a house engulfed by flames, ignoring the obvious threat.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.