This bridge will connect the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russian Federation in March 2014, with mainland Russian Federation by motor and railway overpasses.
"The 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge, which took two years to build and cost $3.6 billion is Putin's project to show that Crimea has joined Russian Federation for good". On Tuesday, state television predicted that it would bring many new tourists and lower food prices in Crimea.
As The Washington Post's Anton Troianovski wrote, it also underscores the enrichment of Putin allies at the cost of decaying bridges, roads and railroads throughout Russian Federation that have not been recipients of his personal patronage. The construction of the bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland kicked off in February 2016. It has been eagerly anticipated by Crimeans as an economic lifeline to their now-isolated and sanctions-hit territory.
The Russian embassy in the U.S. defended the bridge in a Facebook post.
Once fully completed, the road and rail link will be able to handle 40,000 cars a day and to move 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
The blocks imposed by Kiev and Western sanctions have meant a large amount of food is transported from Russian Federation to Crimea by ship, meaning the bridge will play an important role in reducing the region's reliance on sea transport.
The bridge's construction was led by Stroygazmontazh, whose owner, Arkady Rotenberg, has close connections to the Kremlin. Putin's move drew worldwide sanctions and led to a deterioration in ties with the West.
And Putin is planning other grandiose infrastructure projects to boost Russia's national prestige.
"It is historic because in different historical epochs, even during the tsarist rule, people dreamt of building this bridge", he said at the ceremony.
It's a plan that potentially could have far-reaching economic impact. Opening of railway section of this bridge is planned for the end of 2019. The United States and its allies do not recognize the results of the referendum, but Russian Federation maintains that plebiscite was carried out in full accordance with worldwide law.
Minister for European Affairs Alan Duncan reminded that the Crimea is part of Ukraine, and its annexation is a violation of global law. Until now, if Russians wanted to go in Crimea, they had to either take a boat or pass through Ukraine.
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