Putin opens bridge between Crimea and Russian mainland
15 May, 2018, 22:45 | Author: Orlando Hughes
At a ceremony broadcast live on state TV, Putin, dressed in blue jeans, was met by cheering workers on the Crimean side after driving the truck across the bridge in a convoy of vehicles.
European Union and USA sanctions have targeted those involved in building the bridge, principally Putin's close ally, businessman Arkady Rotenberg, whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract.
The Crimean Bridge, at 19 kilometres (nearly 12 miles) will be Europe's longest, overtaking Lisbon's Vasco da Gama Bridge.
Russian Federation annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and prompting a sharp deterioration in ties with the West.
The bridge will make the peninsula easier to reach from southern Russian Federation. The first to cross the new bridge on specialized equipment will be its builders: specialists from different regions of the country, thanks to which the bridge was handed over six months ahead of schedule.
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Crimea is popular among Russians as a summer holiday destination and Putin said in March he would like the bridge to be ready for the season. During World War II the occupying Nazis also began building a bridge, but abandoned the project. "Many didn't believe these plans were possible", Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the ceremony.
Putin, who personally drove a Russian Kamaz truck across the bridge from Russia's Taman peninsula to Ukraine's Crimea at the head of a column of 35 cars, announced that cargo transport would start moving across the bridge from autumn and that the parallel railway bridge would open in a year. The rail section is expected to be completed at the end of 2019.
"This is an extremely important day from this point of view and in a practical sense and in symbolic terms".
Putin, whose popularity rose drastically after Russian Federation invaded and occupied Crimea in the spring of 2014, personally oversaw the project, which started in 2015.
"Five more are under European Union sanctions for illegally holding the presidential election in the occupied Crimea".
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