Trucker Putin opens Russian Federation bridge link with annexed Crimea
15 May, 2018, 22:43 | Author: Sheila Harris
Vladimir Putin visited the Consolidated Traffic Management Centre and heard reports on the readiness of utility teams to operate the transport route across the Kerch Strait.
"France condemns the construction by Russian Federation of the Kerch Bridge, which deprives Ukraine of full access and the use of its internationally recognized territorial waters", a French foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Speaking to the builders of the bridge, Putin said there had been plans to construct such a bridge since the times of the Russian tsars, without mentioning that a previous bridge had actually existed in 1943-1944 thanks to two dictators - Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union.
Russian Federation annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and prompting a deterioration in ties with the West.
The Russian leader, who was re-elected for a fourth Kremlin term in March extending his long rule, then pledged to build more of "such projects" across Russia. It begins on the Taman Peninsula, passes over a five-kilometre dam and Tuzla Island, crosses the Kerch Strait and reaches the Crimean coast.
Ukraine has condemned the project, which cost 228 billion rubles ($3.7 billion).
The bridge is set to be opened to cars on Wednesday.
European Union and U.S. sanctions have targeted those involved in the realization of the bridge, particularly businessman Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally of Putin whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract.
The spokesperson for the European External Action Service said in a statement on Tuesday that the bridge was "another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
"Today, both in a practical sense and from a symbolic point of view, is an extremely important day", he added.
The bridge was completed six months ahead of schedule, according to Russian state news agencies.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, however, that it could be hard to protect European firms from any fallout from the US decision. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called the U.S. withdrawal "impudent" and "worthless".
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