Trucker Putin opens Russian Federation bridge link with annexed Crimea
May 16 2018
Five people involved in organising the March 18 Russian presidential elections in the occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea were put on the European Union's sanctions list on Monday.
The landmark bridge will start regular operations at 5:30 a.m. through the Kerch Strait on Wednesday.
Ukraine, which along with most of the global community has not recognised Russia's annexation of Crimea, condemned the project.
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.
After driving a Kamaz truck for nearly 20 minutes, which was part of a column of vehicles that crossed the bridge for the first time, Putin considered that the entire country worked in its construction.
The spokesperson of the European External Action Service said in a statement on Tuesday the bridge was "another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
Many in Russia saw the bridge as a move toward restoring Moscow's rule over a historically Russian region.
Built at a cost of 223 billion roubles ($3.60 billion), the bridge is set to be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe.
European Union and USA sanctions have targeted those involved in the bridge, principally Putin's close ally, businessman Arkady Rotenberg, whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract.
The peninsula has been hard to reach from southern Russian Federation with long queues of vehicles often forming to board ferries, which can not always run in winter storms, so the easiest way across is to fly. "Many didn't believe these plans were possible", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the ceremony. A railway bridge is due to be completed by the end of 2019. Up to 40,000 cars a day may cross the bridge travelling at a speed of up to 120 km per hour. The bridge was completed six months ahead of schedule.