Putin Officially Opens Massive Bridge Linking Crimea To Russia

EPA  OLIVIER HOSLET

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally drove a Kamaz trip-truck, heading a column of construction vehicles, across the newly-opened bridge connecting mainland Russia with Crimean Peninsula.

The EU has imposed a range of sanctions over Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, carried out in retaliation for Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president in what Russia has condemned as a Western-backed coup. A railway bridge is due to be completed by the end of 2019.

The bridge limits the passage of vessels via the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.

Sarcastically, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the new bridge "will definitely be handy for the occupants when they have to urgently leave our Crimea".

Built at a cost of 223 billion roubles ($3.60 billion), the bridge is set to be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe.

"Putin once more demonstrated that when he carries them out, even the most ambitious plans can be achieved", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Tuesday.

The opening ceremony drew criticism from the West.

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Afghan security forces keep watch during blasts and a gun battle in Jalalabad , Afghanistan on May 13, 2018. Both the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate have carried out numerous attacks in Nangarhar.

"Let me remind you, on my behalf to the Arbitration Tribunal of the UN Convention on the law of the sea was filed on protecting the sovereign interests of Ukraine, in particular, in connection with the illegal construction of the bridge Kerch", - said Poroshenko.

"Today, both in a practical sense and from a symbolic point of view, is an extremely important day", he added.

"Putin initiated this project himself".

Ukraine, which along with most of the global community has not recognised Russia's annexation of Crimea, condemned the project, which was personally championed by Putin.

The Soviets managed to finish the bridge in the summer of 1944 using the materials left by the German army, but the bridge was destroyed six months later by ice flows.

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