Putin train ride bridges Crimea-Russia gap

Putin train ride bridges Crimea-Russia gap
Putin train ride bridges Crimea-Russia gap. picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/S. Malgavko
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Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a commuter rail bridge between the Crimea and Russian mainland with a ceremonious train journey on Monday, as Russia continues to cement its influence in Crimea since its annexation in 2014.

He crossed the 19-kilometer bridge from Kerch on the Crimean side to the Taman peninsula on the mainland Russian side accompanied by construction workers. Spectators watched the crossing on a screen from Taman Passazhirskaya station.

The railway bridge was finished on December 18 with Monday's journey marking the first time that trains have from the peninsula since 2014 when Russian troops moved in support Ukrainian separatists and followed by a referendum, which was met by international condemnation.

Putin congratulated construction workers on completing the bridge, saying that "it has proven our ability to carry out large-scale infrastructure projects."

Reconnecting Crimea

The bridge consists of parallel automobile and railway sections and the project came at a cost of $3.6 billion; planning began in 2014, soon after Crimea's annexation. The automobile segment of the bridge was formally opened by Putin in May 2018 and made available for cargo traffic in the autumn of the same year. The railway bridge will open to freight trains in June 2020.

Prior to the annexation, train traffic used to run between Simferopol and Sevastopol in Crimea and cities in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus as well as Poland. Since traffic was interrupted only suburban trains have kept running inside the peninsula, according to TASS Russian news outlet.

Moscow has funneled significant resources into Crimea's infrastructure since the annexation referendum in 2014, including building two new power stations.

With the opening of the bridge to commuter traffic it is now possible to travel between St. Petersburg and Sevastopol, with the journey lasting a total of 43 hours and 25 minutes. The first train undertaking this mammoth journey was timed to arrive in Crimea shortly after the St. Petersburg-born Putin opened the bridge at 14:00 local time (11:00 UTC).

kmm/msh (dpa, AP)

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