Russian Media Monitoring: “NEW instructions” of how Ukraine will take out the Kerch Bridge

Written by Matt Wickham, HWAG/UCMC analyst

The topic of the Kerch Bridge, perhaps the most heavily protected bridge in the world right now, has once again surfaced in Russian propaganda. This resurgence follows an article in The Sun, a British tabloid, which propaganda alleges “details MI6’s plans” for an attack on the bridge before summer.

As the long-anticipated delivery of F-16 jets nears, along with reports of Ukrainian-made heavy-load UAV water drones being upgraded to cover distances exceeding 1,000 km, and the inclusion of ATACMS in the US’s Ukrainian aid bill, Ukraine’s determination to continue targeting the bridge has clearly unsettled the Kremlin.

The Sun’s article comes a few weeks after Vadym Skibitskyi’s, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, statement telling us to expect the AFU to take down the bridge in the first half of 2024. The article, which outlines a hypothetical plan by Bryan Clark, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, is now being disseminated by Russian outlets as a British intelligence operation.

Propaganda is Pulling at Straws

In response, propagandists such as Klintsevich and Olesya Losyeva have labeled these plans as “direct instructions” from British intelligence services on how Ukraine, under British command, intends to attack the bridge. Losyeva goes further, labeling the planned attack as terrorism, attempting to draw connections between the nonexistent links of the West’s participation in the Moscow city hall attack. This strategy is nothing new; in the past, the Kremlin has referred to any attack on Russia as terrorism, even when it involved legitimate strikes on military targets like the Kerch Bridge. This is a reflect and project tactic propaganda uses while committing daily terror attacks on the Ukrainian people. 

Olesya Losevo, Propaganda and Channel 1 host showing so-called “instructions” from the west on how they will destroy the Kerch Bridge

A Legitimate Military Target?

As a reminder, the Kerch Bridge was constructed following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, connecting the peninsula to Russia in a way that propaganda claims “Crimea has returned home” and therefore, part of Putin’s legacy. However, due to its illegal construction and current use for Russia’s war on Ukraine, it serves as a legitimate target for the AFU. Let’s take a look how…

Two components make up the definition of a legitimate military target, according to Article 52 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions:

  1. the nature, location, purpose or use of the goods must make an effective contribution to military action;
  2. its total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralisation must, in the circumstances prevailing at the time, provide a definite military advantage.

Both of these points, as stipulated by international law, confirm that the Kerch Bridge, due to Russia’s construction, is a legitimate military target. In accordance with point one, without the bridge, the Russian military would not have received the supplies necessary for operations in the south at the start of the full-scale invasion. Thus, its destruction, as indicated in point 2, would provide a clear military advantage to Ukraine. Specifically, the Russian army on occupied territory would be cut off, and operations would be forced to come to a halt. Sounds like a legitimate target to me…

MI6 – Russia’s Long-time Enemy

The plan that Klintsevich attributes to MI6 is actually Clark’s (the expert in the Sun’s article), who, despite being published in a British tabloid, is an US expert based in Washington with no affiliation with MI6 or the British military. Propaganda merely calls this a “British operation” for the mere fact it was published by a British tabloid—one, by the way, that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. However, it’s Clark who describes the step-by-step plan capable of destroying the bridge with his professional opinion on how it could unfold.

Klintsevich tells, “Let me remind you that MI6 posted on their social media precise instructions that there needs to be more terror attacks in Russia and there needs to be more distractions from leaders of social opinions and heads of regions who are managing Russian territories. They speak about it directly.” He goes on to claim that British cells are working in Russia in order to achieve sabotage success in the name of the Ukrainians, claiming that the British want to strike the bridge for its symbolic significance. 

Klintsevich, Russian porpoagandist and military observer on Kremlin-controlled state channel

Firstly, claims that MI6 has openly called for the death of innocent people, domestic attacks, and assassinations of Russian “opinion leaders” on its social media are an exaggeration at best. This is a Kremlin distortion from when MI6 openly called for Russian people to spy for the West, to work against the Russian state, and to help end the war. Claims that the British are leading these operations not only contradict the repeated assurances from the West that they are not directly involved in the war but also undermine the Kremlin’s narrative. According to this narrative, the West only provides instructors, training, and equipment to Ukrainian forces as it is scared of Russian escalation—one Putin used to claim his “red lines” have not yet been crossed. Granted, however, this narrative changes on a daily basis to serve the propaganda pushed at any given time.

Furthermore, such claims that it is the Brits and not Ukraine appear to be a feeble attempt to diminish Ukraine’s military success—often a less bitter pill for the Russian people to swallow. But in actual fact, it is Ukraine that will execute this operation, utilising a combination of domestically produced and Western weaponry. As for the symbolic significance, the only symbolic significance this bridge has is for Putin, with its destruction set to become a huge blow to what he views as one of his legacies.

As summer approaches, the arrival of F-16s, while significant, will not be the sole decisive factor in this act. However, with advancements in drone technology and the potential reach of Ukrainian weaponry, the operation on the Kerch bridge is indeed feasible. The question remains, however: can the combination of these elements effectively penetrate Russia’s extensive defence and bring down the bridge? Storm Shadow missiles, a British design, lack the necessary explosive power, and the Brits do not possess ATACMS missiles in their arsenal to give to Ukraine. Yet the Americans do…

Nevertheless, the realization that the war is far from over and that it only takes one monumental act like this to turn the tables seems to have certainly rattled propagandists. If successful, we can expect increased calls for escalation from propaganda, heightened threats of a nuclear strike, and the Kremlin intensifying its narrative labeling the West as the terrorist state, despite the act aligning with international law and having absolutely nothing to do with the West.