Putin to open mega bridge linking Crimea to Russian Federation

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday is set to unveil a 19-km (about 12-mile) bridge linking southern Russia to the Crimean Peninsula annexed from Ukraine, a highly symbolic project he has personally championed.

Russian state television showed Putin behind the wheel of a construction truck with workers on the almost 20-kilometer drive across the bridge, which aims to integrate Crimea with Russia's transportation network.

Ukraine has criticized the project, saying construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the Azov Sea.

The project cost 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion, €3.1 billion) and will become the longest bridge in Europe, taking over the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal.

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The controversial Crimean Bridge links the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch and spans across a stretch of water between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.

He stressed that despite the futile attempts of Moscow to legitimize temporary occupation of Crimea, a coherent solution to a number of worldwide jurisdictions confirm - "the burden of the flawless global crime for Russian Federation will only grow".

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 United States said the bridge opening was an attempt to solidify Moscow's "unlawful seizure" of the Ukrainian territory.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending the opening ceremony on Tuesday whereas the bridge will start regular operations beginning Wednesday.

After Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the peninsula found itself between a rock and a hard place.

"This constitutes another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russian Federation", said a statement by a spokesperson for the office of the European Union's foreign policy service. It was originally expected to open in December but was finished ahead of schedule.

This is said in a statement made by the European External Action Service on Tuesday.

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Putin also briefly thanked all who participated in the construction, which was conducted predominantly by a company belonging to Arkady Rotenberg, an old friend of Putin who has benefited from lucrative contracts handed out by the Kremlin, and who is now on the European Union sanctions list.

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