Putin drives across new bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to Russia

EPA  OLIVIER HOSLET

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.

The bridge limits the passage of vessels via the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.

The landmark bridge will start regular operations at 5:30 a.m. through the Kerch Strait on Wednesday.

Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin drove along the Crimean bridge behind the wheel of Kamaz. During World War II the occupying Nazis also began building a bridge but abandoned the project.

About 10,000 workers participated in the work, a figure that at peak moments of the construction works reached the 15,000, while some 220 national companies contributed to the so-called work of the century, said the president visibly moved.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement on Tuesday said the "bridge serves as a reminder of Russia's ongoing willingness to flout worldwide law" and said it was an attempt by Russian Federation "to solidify its unlawful seizure and its occupation of Crimea" and impede navigation of the Kerch Strait.

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Now the peninsula is hard to reach from southern Russian Federation as there are often long queues of vehicles trying to board ferries, which can not always run in winter storms, so the easiest way across is to fly.

The 19-km bridge is the largest in Russian Federation built so far. "Many didn't believe these plans were possible", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the ceremony.

At the other end of the 19-kilometer bridge, in Crimea, Putin attended a brief open air show. Vehicle traffic on the bridge will start on may 16 at 5.30 am. It is also created to withstand ice floes in winter.

The construction and installation of the bridge kicked off in February 2016.

In March elections, Russians overwhelmingly voted for Putin to serve a fourth Kremlin term, but an opinion poll by the independent Levada centre found 45 percent of the population think he is failing to ensure that the country's oil and gas revenues trickle down to benefit ordinary people.

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