Putin opens bridge to Crimean land annexed in 2014

Saul Bowman
May 17, 2018

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has inaugurated a highly controversial bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea.

I congratulate you for this truly historic feat, said the head of state, who raised his microphone in a stage prepared for the occasion in order to celebrate an event that already became the pride of Russian engineering because there was no foreign participation.

It also underscored the Putin-centric system of political and economic patronage in Russian Federation.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea was illegally seized from Ukraine in the spring of 2014 as a result of planned Moscow a special operation to total destabilization of the country after the revolution of Dignity. It has been eagerly anticipated by Crimeans as an economic lifeline to their now-isolated and sanctions-hit territory.

Those sanctions remain in place, and have expanded in the wake of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Putin ordered the bridge four years ago and construction began in February 2016. "We will build more roads, bridges, airports and ports".

Those sanctions, in effect, targeted a member of Putin's inner circle: The primary contract for the bridge's construction was awarded to a unit of Stroygazmontazh, a firm controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of Putin and his former judo sparring partner. Putin's move drew global sanctions and led to a deterioration in ties with the West.

"Today Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially dedicated the first section of the Crimean Bridge".

"Russia's construction of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia's ongoing willingness to flout global law", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, Agence France-Presse reported.

It's a plan that potentially could have far-reaching economic impact.

Due to the blocks imposed by Kiev and Western sanctions, a large amount of food is now transported to the peninsula from Russian Federation by ship, meaning the bridge will play an important role in reducing the region's reliance on sea transport. The opening of this bridge represents yet another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, and a further example of Russia's reckless behavior.

Putin annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, in 2014, after claiming that ethnic Russians in the region were threatened by Ukraine's pro-Western revolution.

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