Ukraine attempted to blow up Chonhar bridge as Russia invaded, soldier says

7 July, 02:57 AM
Ivan Sestrivatovsky (Photo:Ukrainska Pravda)

Ivan Sestrivatovsky (Photo:Ukrainska Pravda)

Ivan Sestrivatovsky, a soldier who was stationed at the border with Crimea on February 24, 2022, said that attempts to blow up key bridges at Chonhar were thwarted by either Russian sabotage groups or damaged detonation wires.

In a July 6 interview with Ukrainska Pravda (UP), Sestrivatovsky gave his first public account of the events at the very onset of the Russian full-scale invasion.

Sestrivatovsky, who served at Chonhar from the autumn of 2021 as deputy platoon commander, says that all the bridges had been rigged with explosives since 2014. They were not cleared of these explosives before the full-scale invasion; in fact, their conditions were verified several prior to the outbreak of the war.

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“Chonhar didn't have any special fortifications,” he said.

“However, everything was already rigged from 2014. All the bridges – including a railway bridge and Chonhar bridges – were rigged to explode.”

Sestrivatovsky recalls he was responsible for detonating the bridges at Chonhar on the night of Feb. 24, 2022. The order was meant to come from his immediate superior, but due to disrupted communication, incessant shelling, and the commander's preoccupation with personnel matters, Sestrivatovsky had to decide about the detonation himself.

UP points out that while Sestrivatovsky isn't a sapper, he had been given instructions on how to connect explosive devices and activate them.

"I attempted the detonation, but there was no explosion," the soldier said.

Sestrivatovsky said he was surprise to hear that the attempted detonation of the Chonhar bridges had become a topic of nationwide discussion in Ukraine, and that some individuals are even facing accusations over it. He disagrees with the notion that blowing up the bridges would have significantly hindered the invaders' progress in southern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, if the bridges had been blown up, it wouldn't have stopped the advance,” he concludes.

“It might have delayed it a bit, but not for long – maybe an hour or an hour and a half at most. They would have simply deployed pontoon bridges. They were prepared for this war.”

Following the failed detonation, Sestrivatovsky, along with two conscripts, decided to leave their positions in their own vehicle as he wasn't able to leave with his unit.

On that same day, Feb. 24, they were encircled and captured by Russian forces. Sestrivatovsky was only released from captivity on April 26, 2023.

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