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Putin inaugurates controversial bridge between Russia, Crimea.

Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a controversial new bridge linking mainland Russia and Moscow-annexed Crimea by driving a dump truck across the 12-mile span. Clad in jeans, a casual jacket and black dress shoes, the Russian strongman was seen on state TV on Tuesday behind the wheel of the truck as he drove it across the...
Time: 09:21     Date: 16.05.2018
Last US News: Putin inaugurates controversial bridge between Russia, Crimea. NY Post 24 - US News

Clad in jeans, a casual jacket and black dress shoes, the Russian strongman was seen on state TV on Tuesday behind the wheel of the truck as he drove it across the $3.6 billion bridge that links the Taman peninsula to Ukraine’s Crimea.

“At last, thanks to your talent, this project, this miracle, has happened,” Putin told cheering workers on the Crimean side, according to Reuters.

“I want to sincerely congratulate you with this remarkable, festive and, in the full sense of the word, historic day,” he added.

But the festive atmosphere belied the fact that the project has been mired in controversy due to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Many Russians saw the move as restoring Moscow’s rule over a historically Russian region, but the country faced widespread condemnation and sanctions.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “The illegal construction of the Kerch bridge is the latest evidence of the Kremlin’s disregard for international law.

“It is particularly cynical that its opening is happening on the eve of the latest anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean-Tatar people by the Stalin regime.”

The US said the bridge was an attempt to solidify Moscow’s “unlawful seizure” of the Ukrainian territory.

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

The Russian embassy in the US defended the bridge in a Facebook post.

“As one could predict, Washington is not happy,” the embassy wrote.

“But Crimea is Russia. We shall not ask for anybody’s permission to build transport infrastructure for the sake of the population of Russian regions.”

The European Union also slammed what it called a fresh assault on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“This constitutes another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia,” said a spokesman for the office of the EU’s foreign policy service.

Built at a cost of $3.6 billion, the bridge will be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe. The Kremlin said it would be opened to cars Wednesday, while the rail section will be completed at the end of 2019.

“Putin initiated this project himself. Many didn’t believe these plans were possible,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This is an extremely important day from this point of view and in a practical sense and in symbolic terms.”

Meanwhile, the bridge’s feline mascot – Mostik the cat — helped take the edge of the politically fraught project by beating Putin across the bridge a day earlier, Newsweek reported.

“First to run the 19 kilometers. Everything is ready!” the fearless feline posted on Instagram Monday. “Tomorrow I am ceremonially opening the bridge with the builders and the president. And starting May 16th you can come yourselves.”

Images of Mostik, named after the Russian word for “bridge,” napping on construction equipment and exploring the site have been shared thousands of times in social media.

Construction workers also have given Mostik a small hard hat.

With Post wires

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