The attack on the Kerch bridge has been an interesting source of discussion as to what the true cause of the explosion was.
Experts in the field of explosives, forensics and analysis have come to different conclusions on the subject. Many have said it could be any of the options and they just can’t say which it is.
And, of course, it has brought out the amateur “experts”.
I place myself somewhere between the two. I’m certainly not an expert in explosives or forensics when it comes to finding the source of an explosion/IED, but I like to think I’m pretty good at analysis – though not infallible. No one is!
This report is a discussion of ideas and thoughts. It isn’t a “It was truck” or “it was a boat” – it is a showing of evidence that I have found. Others have done the same. I will say now – I am ruling out a SOF planted devices or missile strike, and I won’t even cover these here.
However, I have found through watching the videos of the explosion some possible evidence that doesn’t seem to have been picked up elsewhere. The challenge was to find further evidence – this shows some.
The most popular conclusion for the explosion is the truck bomb. Quite handily, the Russian government also stated this was the source. They came up with the driver’s name, a company involved, cargo – even the route he took for the days preceding the explosion, and the strange action of taking 6 hours to drive along a road that should have taken less than an hour.
We all believe everything Russia says don’t we? In this case, it seems we do!
The Russians failed to say that the 6 hour extension of the journey was probably because the driver was asleep in a rest area somewhere. Russian “investigators” came up with Makhir Yusubov from Kazan in Tatarstan – but living in Krasnodar, south Russia – as the driver, and a story of fake companies. The family are being investigated.
An x-ray of the truck has been produced that shows the “explosive cargo” in the trailer – a trailer that doesn’t match that of the type that was used! There’s an axle missing and the underside safety rails are different! Clearly a fake.
This x-ray imagery was then said to be of another truck and the “cargo” was exchanged between the trailers – interesting as really all that needed to be carried out here was an exchange of the trucks themselves, and a change of number plates on the trailer. Why take the risk of moving the cargo from one trailer to another?
Parts of the destroyed truck are available in photos taken at the bridge, whilst eight men have now been arrested – five Russians and three others (Armenian and Ukrainian) – connected with the bombing.
The FSB have carried out a very swift investigation that’s for sure. Too swift maybe?
Why a truck bomb?
This is the first question I asked myself when I heard about it. The truck bomb certainly looks to be the cause of the explosion from the current evidence. Here’s my list of oddities I noted in my hypothetical blog on the day:
1 – There is quite good security for vehicles to get through to pass across the bridge. The lorry in question doesn’t appear to have been that well searched but it was stopped.
2 – If it was the lorry, why didn’t it drive slower, or even stop?
3 – If it had stopped, there is no security in that area. The driver could have bailed out of the vehicle and set it off remotely, or by a short timer – therefore surviving the attack.
4 – Why was it in the “slow” lane? For best results it would have been on the outer lane, nearer the southbound side; and the rail bridge. Stopping would’ve been even more effective.
These still stand. Point 1 was risky. It could have failed before the truck even got to the bridge.
Moreover, there’s now more to add to that list.
5 – Why detonate the bomb at that location? Surely the arch area was a better target than at the beginning of the up slope to it.
6 – How did the bomb detonate?
If it was by the driver who had instructions, then point 5 surely counts here. As does points 2, 3 and 4.
Maybe it was a timed detonation? See point 9.
If it was by remote GPS triggering then – as the Lat/Long of the bridge can be obtained from Google Earth very easily – either the accuracy of the GPS was very poor, or the position was entered incorrectly! Most GPS devices available are accurate to a couple of metres so this does look to be either an incorrect entry or – more likely – not the trigger source.
7 – Leading from point 6 then, was there a following vehicle that remote controlled the detonation from afar and the driver didn’t know what he was carrying?
Again, this needs Point 1 to be bypassed. And by two vehicles. There was no way of telling how long it would take the two vehicles to get through security – and whether it would all happen in time for the following vehicle to be in the right place. It is extremely risky.
One caveat here though – if the Russians were involved and knew the following vehicle would get through security – or they used the bridge CCTV to see where the truck was.
8 – Was the train a planned part of the attack?
This could have been a lucky break. Why? Because the driver took a 6 hour break. According to the paperwork Russia provided, he should have crossed the bridge earlier than this. If it was part of the plan then timing needed to be perfect. It was certainly another risk that may not have worked out – it still might not have.
9 – This leads to – was the bridge the actual target?
Going back to point 6 and the timed trigger along with the fact that the driver rested for 6 hours – if it was a timer then the truck should have been elsewhere at the time of the explosion and not on the bridge. A new can of worms.
10 – The truck and driver originated their journey in Russia. This needed to be a very well planned and executed job to carry out to success. With the arrest of the eight men, five of them being identified as Russian could have made this easier.
It will be interesting to hear what their backgrounds are. It’s certainly a mixed bunch, with in theory, only the Ukrainians being the “enemy of Russia”. If all this is a fake story to try and conceal something else, then I wonder whether the Russians are prisoners and refused to fight or whatever. There’s plenty of poor fodder the Russians could use for this.
So, the truck bomb theory certainly throws up a lot of problems with the actual mission, a lot of uncertainties – and a lot of luck.
One amateur analyst, Oliver Alexander, has carried out near continual watch on this and insists that it was a truck bomb and has provided “conclusive evidence” for this.
All current evidence points to the most likely and obvious cause, with nothing currently pointing against it. For some reason everyone has to make up a million more complicated theories with a large amount of holes solely because they want something else to have happened – he said to me in a Tweet.
To be a true analyst in this game you need to look at all theories – no matter how complicated they may appear. Every theory needs to be eliminated.
He has carried out some great work, but most of it has been on the truck theory.
He asked for other evidence to point otherwise. So here’s some to look at.
This has taken a couple of days to go through. You see, despite being an “old man” – as he called me (51 btw) – my experience in working in this field has taught me to take my time and go through things systematically. This is the benefit of being “old” and having had years of experience – unlike those with the absolute desperate need to get thousands of followers and likes on Twitter, some kofi cash and their name in a newspaper!
Whilst much evidence does point to it being a truck bomb there are still things that don’t quite add up. It’s not just me saying this – there’s plenty of far more qualified people than me that can’t decide.
So let’s talk about the “boat under the bridge” theory. After the early video footage came out I created my previous blog based on this. It was a hypothetical “story” based on the very early comments of a boat being visible.
However, it was reasonably clear that it wasn’t a boat that was visible under the bridge, but a wave. What causes the wave is the question.
All we really have to use is the footage from this CCTV video to see the water flow of the strait. I couldn’t find any others. The image above highlights “the wave”. As you can see, under the rail bridge there is another wave passing through.
Satellite imagery doesn’t really show that much either as the bridge is new and there’s not much historical imagery to analyse. Mainly though, it looks not that rough in the historic satellite imagery that is available. However, this can’t be used in evidence to show normal water conditions. Living in an area that is much the same, I can tell you it differs every day.
There is likely to be turbulent waters as the two sea areas meet, along with the addition of those caused by the bridge support pillars. An image later in this report shows the choppiness of the area a few days after the attack.
This surge wave could have been caused by a number of things.
1 – A boat. Yep, it could have been. Either ramming into the bridge off screen, or manoeuvring/stopping adjacent to the bridge – especially so if it was coming in at speed.
2 – Just a random, choppy, wave.
3 – Caused by the extra circular bridge extension that is located in this gap that comes off the side of the bridge.
None of these can be proven without seeing more everyday footage – especially for point 3 which is the only permanent item there.
Therefore, the boat could be a possibility, but less so than the truck – according to evidence so far shown.
Let’s check the other CCTV footage to see what we can spot.
Taken from the CCTV camera behind the explosion you can see plenty of debris raining down. I’ve circled a few to highlight specific points.
To the left, this is debris hitting the rail support pillar. This pillar is nearer to the camera than the truck just visible going away from us, which was approximately 170 metres in trail of the truck that “exploded”. The rail support pillar is about another five metres further away.
What’s interesting here is the way the glowing debris travels. The bottom left circled is a large piece hitting the base and behind the pillar. This means the debris has travelled 175 metres in a straight line to get to this point. Plus the vertical movement.
The wind looks to be at about 60 to 80 degrees, speed unknown. In the image above you can clearly see that the wind is blowing in this direction – right to left.
The image below shows the rough direction the debris has travelled to ignite the train with the red arrows, whilst the blue arrow shows the approximate direction of the wind later on in the day. There is damage to the rail bridge to the south of the train but this is very little in comparison to that caused by the burning fuel cars.
Weather information from Kerch airfield approximately 11 kilometres away has been provided as an example of the wind at the time of the explosion at the bridge. Whether any time zone conversions was put in to this is unknown as for example if I look at the same data for Kerch airfield right now I get a 1200 time when it is 1400 at Kerch. Regardless of this, it was pretty much the same at the airfield for the time periods before.
However, as the day progresses the wind shifts around, as the wind does. At one stage it is 080 degrees – a twenty degree difference to a couple of hours earlier. And this is an interesting aspect that needs to be looked at.
The wind at the bridge could have been completely different to the airfield despite the relatively closeness of the two points. This can be proven at airports where two that are close to each other with nearly the same runway direction configurations can be on completely different ends for arrivals and departures because the wind is completely different at the two locations.
However, from the under rail bridge CCTV, the steam and smoke is clearly at right angles to the bridge so it looks like it was roughly the same here.
Back to the explosion image, the highlighted area to the right of the breaking truck is in front of the circular extension to the side of the bridge. Debris is coming down around the car and truck in that area too. All of this debris is coming from quite a distance to the right. We know that the truck and car didn’t go past the circular area or they’d have fallen down at the split in the road 15 metres before.
For this debris to arrive at this point, from the right, from the approximate position of the truck, it needed to have travelled at least 220 metres. Not only that, it needed to have gone vertical and fought against the wind to get to the point to start coming back down again.
This takes quite some effort, even for this size of explosion, for what has been stated to be AN/FO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) with powdered aluminium added as the used explosives. All of this is very lightweight. Bits of the truck would have gone that way for sure and I expected larger pieces to have been seen coming from the truck area rather than all this “glitter”. Despite the wind I would have expected to see debris coming towards the CCTV camera, directly over the vehicles and down the road. This doesn’t appear to happen.
I would also have expected the greater amount of debris and “glitter” to be directly behind the truck and more concentrated to the left. It is denser to the right of the truck.
From what I can ascertain, the CCTV camera is on the overhead gantry at Tuzla Island, about 1.2 km away and heavily zoomed in. It is possibly over the southbound lane, but could equally be over the central reservation.
Playing the video in slow motion, frame by frame shows much of the smoke and debris coming from right to left. This is more obvious if you play it backwards. In fact, a lot of it comes from off screen!
Explosions tend to go up, unless they’re directed, and around in a circular direction. Yet this doesn’t appear to happen if the position of the truck is taken into account at the time of the explosion. As the initial flare clears there is no residual debris above the trucks position, hardly any to the left – but most is to the right, travelling left. This would imply that the explosion happened to the right of the bridge.
We’ve all seen enough “tank turrets into space” videos to see that things go up from an explosion.
In the footage from the CCTV from under the rail bridge a lot of the debris comes from high right and reasonably close to the camera itself.
Below is just over one second after the explosion. Even taking into account some zooming and the debris is falling halfway between the camera and the next pillar, this is 120 metres behind the position of the truck. The majority should be coming straight at the camera, not right to left – or there’d at least be a mix of debris – at the camera first and then right to left as the debris thrown south then starts travelling west. Nothing ever appears to come at the camera as would be expected.
About four seconds later and it is dying off, but debris is still falling right to left between the next two pillars. Note the amount of debris falling onto the road from far off to the right. These embers will be hot enough to melt the tarmac creating little pits.
A few seconds later, the southbound road catches fire for a brief period. This is one of the biggest causes for the blackened area that is left here. The white smoke under the bridge is in fact steam from the hot road section that has collapsed suddenly being super-cooled by the water.
Shortly after, the water gets extremely turbulent as shown below. Many people have highlighted this but it has been dismissed as just the normal conditions. It isn’t, it is caused by the blast and collapsing bridge – it is much rougher than before the blast.
Moreover, commentary says that this can be dismissed as the rough water is “is also under the wrong part of the bridge.” It’s under the wrong part of the bridge why? Because it isn’t only under the arch that took the blast from above?
This is confirmation bias because the belief is that the truck was the source of the explosion – and nothing else.
The end of the clip gives us a good close up of the damage. This in itself hopefully clears the myth that everything will get bent away from a blast. This doesn’t happen, as the nearest upright light pole shows – it would be bent towards the camera.
The retaliatory attacks on Kiev highlighted that things above an explosion can be damaged on the top.
The glass bridge example has shrapnel and burnt areas caused from debris landing from an explosion below and blackening the path. There was no real fireball here however, so it wasn’t as bad as at the Kerch bridge.
One can see the weirdness of explosions though. Below is the glass bridge taken from a video. The explosion took place about 30 metres directly below this point. The glass panel to the right is damaged by debris but didn’t shatter – the one in the middle has been destroyed – but the one to the left is intact but has been warped by the heat and twisting of the metal frame to bend towards the explosion.
Despite all this, up until below, going through the evidence I was still of the mind that it was likely to be the truck – despite what some people may think because I questioned the way they said things on Twitter.
Back to the gantry CCTV at Kerch and we see some evidence that I think has been missed elsewhere.
For the next sequence of images I’ve marked the position of the truck (red dot) and circular extension (blue dot) just before the explosion. I’ve also created a pseudo crash barrier that extends past the circular extension point. There is slight movement in the positions due to camera shake, but for the examples below it is marginal and makes no difference to the analysis.
This video is good because it hasn’t been cropped in close, therefore more of the area above and around the truck is visible.
Because many reTweeters etc. have zoomed into the truck they’ve missed things happening elsewhere. Below I have highlighted an area that has solid debris going vertical, right to left. Had it come from the truck area it would be going left to right or straight up from the red dot.
By moving the video frame by frame I was able to plot a couple of them. The first is below. The debris travels up and right to left. If you imagine this line extended down it has come from a long way right of the circular extension – in other words from the river.
Here’s another. Again, the imaginary line would take it down to the river. There’s several of these that all show the same trajectory. One thing is for sure – these bits of large debris have not come from the truck! That is unless it has miraculously gone sideways and down, before propelling itself back up and in the opposite direction!
Play the video yourself and look in this area. Stop it and control the playback yourself. Play it backwards and forwards. You’ll see this debris.
So where has it come from?
The boat theory has always been that it was positioned under the bridge.
This created the “It can’t be a boat, there’s no damage under the bridge” and “it is definitely damage caused from an explosion above the surface” comments.
Confirmation bias has kicked in. The belief that a boat was under the bridge made people look for the damage under the bridge rather than looking wider – and at the full picture. They have seen what they wanted to see to confirm their beliefs.
Now, their beliefs may still be correct, but there’s evidence in those pictures above – taken from the very same video they say PROVES it was an explosion from the truck – that could show otherwise.
What if the boat was actually to the side of the bridge rather than under it? What if it went off early? What if it was GPS triggered and something went wrong with that? What if the person controlling the boat activated it early to get the train too?
Sound familiar?? All possibilities that have been given to the truck theory, but completely overlooked for others.
A boat gives a further option the truck doesn’t. What if the boat was being controlled remotely and something failed with that, or the steering went – anything that could go wrong with it that meant it was detonated early or in the wrong position.
Yes, there’s bits of truck being found, but if the explosion was close enough it would have probably been practically destroyed in the process anyway. It certainly would have been pushed to the side, into crash barriers making them collapse and break up – a theory used to prove the bomb went off next to the barrier – before disappearing into the water. Bits of it would have turned up in more places than one location – regardless.
One final set of pictures.
This first one is supposed to prove a 2000 kg bomb in a truck detonated at this position due to the slight dip in the southbound road. If that had happened I’m pretty sure it would have been in a substantially worse condition than this (ignore the the barriers – they’re new). It is bending down, granted, but superheated metal will warp a little possibly? – not an expert so don’t know.
The same goes for the image below. I would expect there to be far more damage than this. There’s only a minimum amount of shrapnel pits – tiny at that, they’d be bigger if a bomb this size had gone off a few feet above this area and that close the hole that is there. And the missing tarmac is likely due to it being superheated and then supercooled by the water and sliding off. It is clearly only about an inch or two thick and wouldn’t have taken much.
Also note the twisted crash barrier and the fact that the uprights are going 90 degrees to the road, not away from the blast as has been used as evidence for an above the road explosion.
And one also has to think about the length of the truck – probably 20 to 22 metres, or about a third of the distance between spans. The hole caused is small in comparison, especially when you remember the truck was supposedly near full of explosives and the explosion itself was able to throw debris hundreds of metres away!
Below is the damage a 1500 kg truck bomb causes.
Whilst the environments are different – hard road vs soft bridge – enclosed area vs open area – the blast damage is huge. I’d expect a greater amount of damage at the bridge than there is.
I still can’t say 100% it was a truck bomb – I also can’t say it wasn’t either. However, the evidence provided until now has always been towards a pro truck bomb theory rather than any other and I can’t argue with that – in fact I never have. I have always agued with the “conclusive proof” theories when it appears not everything has been looked at.
The large amounts of debris in the CCTV video coming from the side and below the bridge needs to be analysed by experts – not by amateurs such as myself.
It may have already been spotted by those very people – and not brought to light. Why should they if there’s something to protect – such as a method of attack that can be used again.
In fact, it has been a dilemma of mine whether I should have come out with this report but I felt that due to the “challenge of finding further evidence” it was something that needed to be highlighted.
Finally, the fact that the majority of the people involved appear to be Russian (the driver and those arrested), throws in another question. Who carried out the attack? If it were a “terrorist group” then surely they would have come clean about it by now – someone always says it was them.
Unless you are scapegoats, made up by the Russian FSB, to cover a complete mess in the defensive network around the bridge.
At the end of the day, this isn’t a “I’m right, you’re wrong” report – which is most definitely being thrown around elsewhere. I hope it is an open report that people can look at and go “shit, I hadn’t spotted that” – and start looking at the event with a wider view.