Bridges are potent political symbols, and few more so than the 19-kilometer (12-mile) link across the Kerch Strait connecting Russia with annexed Crimea, a feat of engineering riveted with strategic and propaganda significance.

When he drove across it in 2018 in a bright orange truck, Russian flags fluttering, Vladimir Putin called it a miracle. It was a project, the Kremlin spokesman made a point of telling reporters, that the president himself initiated. The following year, he came back to inaugurate the rail portion, riding in the train cab for the cameras.

And yet, in the immediate aftermath of a spectacular explosion early on Saturday that badly damaged the bridge, Putin and other senior officials fell silent. Even Moscow’s loudest propagandists — like RT boss Margarita Simonyan, who initially tweeted only a single word — were reticent. Official reaction did not emerge until Sunday, with Putin labeling the explosion a "terrorist attack” in a brief comment. Then, after a start in Zaporizhzhia, air-raid alerts spread across Ukraine; Monday dawned with explosions in the heart of Kyiv.