The Russian security services have arrested an Armenian and declared two Georgians persons of interest in an investigation of the Kerch Bridge explosion. They allege that explosives responsible for the incident were transported into Russia through Georgia and Armenia.
On 8 October, an explosion severely damaged the bridge connecting Russia with Crimea, causing two lanes to partially collapse.
Four days later, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and Investigative Committee identified at least ten people, including Georgian citizens Sandro Inosaridze and ’a broker called Levan’, and Armenian citizen Artur Terchanyan, as having been involved in the incident.
While the cause of the blast remains unconfirmed, the statement claims that the three accused were involved in transporting explosives that originated in Ukraine’s city port of Odesa, and then transported through Bulgaria, Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti, Armenia, and Georgia again, before detonating in a lorry on the bridge.
According to the FSB, the explosives entered Russia through the Upper Lars checkpoint with Georgia on 4 October, ‘camouflaged’ in rolls of construction polyethene film as cargo.
The FSB statement also accused Ukraine’s military intelligence and its head Kirill Budanov of having organised the ‘terrorist attack’. Ukraine has officially neither confirmed nor denied involvement.
Russian authorities stated that they had arrested eight of the ‘accomplices’ they had identified. Those arrested include an Armenian citizen.
The blast killed at least three people including the driver of the lorry, according to the Investigative Committee. The other two victims are said to be passengers of a car that was near the lorry when it exploded.
The lorry driver, 51-year-old Mahir Yusubov, was an ethnic Azerbaijani who lived in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai. His nephew Samir Yusubov, the lorry’s registered owner, made a video appeal following the incident, saying that he had nothing to do with the explosion.
Armenia’s National Security Service was quick to respond, launching a criminal case to investigate the allegations.
The country’s State Revenue Committee also issued a statement on the entry and exit of the vehicle in Armenia, stating that no risk factors were noted when the vehicle was examined according to accepted ‘Eurasian Economic Union practices’.
‘The cargo’s entry into the Republic of Armenia, its customs control, X-ray inspection, customs clearance, document preparation, and export processes took place in a proper and legal manner’.
According to the Revenue Committee, the vehicle entered Armenia on 27 September from Georgia and left the country on 1 October bound for Russia, driven by Artur Terchanyan, a citizen of Armenia resident in Georgia.
The Russian authorities did not specify the whereabouts of the two Georgian citizens or whether they had contacted the Georgian Government regarding their cases.
The deputy Interior Minister of Georgia, Aleksandre Darakhvelidze, and the first Deputy Finance Minister, Giorgi Kakauridze, rejected the FSB’s allegations.
‘There are accusations, some from politicians and others from special services, that are not supported by evidence. It’s easy to blame someone else for something but if it’s not supported by evidence, it is just a rant. No trailer containing TNT or any other explosive material crossed [the Georgian] customs border.’
Kakauridze added that an investigation would be launched only if ‘someone substantiates’ the claim that the cargo crossed the Georgian border.
OC Media reached out to the Georgian Foreign Ministry for comment.
The day before the latest claim by the Russian investigative services, the Bulgarian government denied that the suspected lorry had been on their territory.
This article was amended on 13 October 2022. An earlier version said that Artur Terchanyan is a citizen of Armenia and Georgia. He is a citizen of Armenia, and resident of Georgia.