Russia says three people have been killed after a key bridge to Crimea was partially destroyed in an explosion.

Kerch Bridge – which is also known as the Crimean Bridge – spans 12-miles and is a key supply route for Moscow as they continue their attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine war latest: Putin sends ministers to scene of bridge explosion

Russian authorities say a truck bomb set alight seven railway carriages carrying fuel in the early hours of Saturday morning, resulting in a “partial collapse of two sections of the bridge”.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said three people have been found dead after they were believed to have been in a car close to the truck that exploded.

The bodies of two victims, a man and a woman, have been recovered from the water and their identities are being established, the committee added.

The speaker of Crimea’s Russian-backed regional parliament accused Ukraine, although the Kremlin did not apportion blame.

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Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge and some lauded the attack, but Kyiv stopped short of claiming responsibility.

In the wake of the fire, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called it “the beginning”.

He tweeted: “Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.

The bridge, which has train and road sections, has been closed for train traffic until further notice.

The attack comes just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday.

Mr Putin has sent ministers to the bridge and formed a government panel to investigate the cause of the incident.

The Crimean peninsula holds symbolic value for Russia and is key to sustaining its military operations in southern Ukraine. If destroyed, ferrying provisions from Russia would be significantly more challenging.

The Kerch bridge is the longest in Europe and has provided an essential link to the Crimean peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly threatened to strike the bridge.

Built by Putin’s childhood friend and business partner Arkady Rotenberg, the £3.2bn project was first opened to road traffic in May 2018, with the parallel bridge for rail traffic opening the following year.

The attack on the bridge marks another humiliating setback for Moscow, following weeks of battlefield reversals as Ukrainian forces push back at the frontlines.

In August, Russia suffered a series of explosions at an air base and munitions depot in Crimea, which underlined its vulnerability.

Just hours before the damage to the bridge, explosions rocked the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, triggering a series of secondary explosions.

Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said the explosions were the result of missile strikes in the centre of the city.

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Meanwhile, the death toll in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia has risen to seven, following earlier missile strikes on blocks of flats there.

The region is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, whose reactors were shut down last month.

In eastern Ukraine, two mass graves have been discovered in the recently liberated town of Lyman.

One is understood to have around 200 graves, with reports of single graves where civilians are buried.

The second area may contain both military and civilian bodies. The exact number has yet to be determined, with exhumation set to begin soon.