Putin opens new bridge to Crimea, provoking Ukraine, Western ire

Published May 16, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By (AFP)

A woman takes a picture prior to the opening ceremony of the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge passing over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on May 15, 2018, in Kerch. Right photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin drives a construction truck across the new 19 kilometers (12 miles) road-and-rail Crimean Bridge over the Kerch Strait linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea during the opening ceremony on May 15, 2018. (AFP photos)
A woman takes a picture prior to the opening ceremony of the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge passing over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on May 15, 2018, in Kerch. Right photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin drives a construction truck across the new 19 kilometers (12 miles) road-and-rail Crimean Bridge over the Kerch Strait linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea during the opening ceremony on May 15, 2018. (AFP photos)

Kerch – President Vladimir Putin drew condemnation from the US, Europe and Ukraine on Tuesday after he opened a new bridge linking mainland Russia and Moscow-annexed Crimea by driving a truck across it to the peninsula.

Putin dressed in jeans and a casual jacket was shown by Russian state television behind the wheel of a construction truck to drive 19 kilometers (12 miles) across the bridge, which links the Taman peninsula in southern Russia to Ukraine’s Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

“I want to sincerely congratulate you with this remarkable, festive and, in the full sense of the word, historic day,” Putin told workers upon arrival on the Crimean side of the bridge.

“In different historical eras, even under the tsar, people were dreaming of building this bridge,” Putin told cheering workers.

He was referring to Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, who first proposed such a bridge, but the outbreak of World War I prevented it going ahead.

Another unsuccessful attempt was made in the 1930s under Joseph Stalin. During World War II the occupying Nazis also began building a bridge but abandoned the project.

Putin, who was re-elected for a fourth Kremlin term in March extending his long rule, pledged to build more of “such projects” across Russia.

The Crimean Bridge overtakes Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge as the longest in Europe.

Built at a cost of 228 billion rubles ($3.7 billion), the new structure connects the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch, spanning a strait between the Black and Azov seas.

Ukraine, which along with most of the international community has not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, condemned the project.

“The Russian occupying powers, which have temporarily occupied Crimea, are continuing to act outside international law,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman told AFP in an interview.

Ukraine has also previously complained that the construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the Azov Sea.

The United States said the bridge opening was an attempt to solidify Moscow’s “unlawful seizure” of the Ukrainian territory.

“Russia’s construction of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia’s ongoing willingness to flout international law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The European Union also criticised what it called a fresh assault on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“This constitutes another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia,” said a statement by a spokesperson for the office of the European Union’s foreign policy service.

British Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said it was “a further example of Russia’s reckless behavior.”

“We continue to work with partners to oppose the annexation, including by maintaining a robust package of sanctions.”

 
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