Vladimir Putin drives truck across new bridge linking Crimea to Russian Federation

Vladimir Putin drives truck across new bridge linking Crimea to Russian Federation

Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to open a 19-kilometer bridge connecting southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on Tuesday.

The 12-mile (19km), $3.7bn (£2.7bn) bridge is Moscow's only direct road link to Crimea.

Two-way automobile and public transit traffic via the Kerch Strait will be launched on May 16.

Relations between Russian Federation and Ukraine remain extremely fraught as a simmering conflict continues between Kiev and Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine's south-east.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's security service raided the offices of Russian state media in Kiev and detained one journalist, moves the chief editor of Russia's RT television suggested were linked to the bridge opening. This was written by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko on his page in Facebook on Tuesday, may 15. Up to 40,000 cars a day may cross the bridge travelling at a speed of up to 120 km per hour.

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At a ceremony broadcast live on state TV, Putin, dressed in blue jeans, was met by cheering workers on the Crimean side after driving the orange-colored truck across the bridge in a small convoy of vehicles. "Then they returned to this [idea] in the 1930s, the 40s, the 50s". "And finally, thanks to your work, your talent, this project, this miracle happened!"

In March 1943, Hitler ordered the construction of a road and railway bridge over the Kerch Strait within six months, but Nazi forces had to retreat in September the same year, leaving the bridge unfinished.

Opening the bridge across the Kerch Strait is an attempt to legitimize the annexation of part of Ukraine's territory.

Construction was led by Stroygazmontazh, whose owner, Arkady Rotenberg, has close connections to the Kremlin.

"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.

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