"Let's go!": Crimean bridge opened
The official opening of a the bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula was held today. The ceremony was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia's Transportation Minister Maksim Sokolov and businessman Arkady Rotenberg briefed the head of state about the work done.
Putin took the seat at the wheel in the cabin of a Kamaz truck to lead a convoy of 35 vehicles along the bridge.
Vladimir Putin said that the Kerch Strait Bridge opening was ‘an historic event.’ "I sincerely congratulate you with this remarkable, ceremonious and truly historic day in the full meaning of this word!" Putin said, addressing construction workers.
He separately thanked the project’s organizers who "without any exaggeration put general state interests above their personal and group interests."
Russia's president also expressed gratitude to army engineers, ecologists, archeologists, scientists, designers, engineers and workers involved in the project’s implementation.
The 19-kilometer 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 construction of the bridge began in May 2015. The project aims at facilitating transportation between mainland Russia and the peninsula, which were previously only connected by a ferry route. It had been expected to be fully constructed by the end of 2018 but has been completed six months ahead of schedule and will be open to traffic on May 16.
The bridge has two parts – one for automobile traffic, which is opening this week, and one for trains – which is to be finished next year. For several more months, trucks will not be allowed through, giving extra time to check all the safety measures and engineering quality.
The director of the Center for Political Information, Alexei Mukhin, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the value of the Crimean bridge for the full integration of the peninsula in Russia cannot be overestimated. "Because of the aggravated Russia-Ukraine relations, this bridge becomes the road of life for the Crimean citizens. Therefore its significance is enduring," he stressed.
Alexei Mukhin drew attention to Ukraine's desire to somehow damage the Crimean bridge. "We are closely watching the illegal actions of Ukrainian colleagues, including the current searches of the SBU in the Kiev offices of RT and RIA Novosti. Unfortunately, there is no way to call them to order, they are only exacerbating the situation. Their actions is a gesture of despair beyond international law. As for provocations on the site, we have established special units protecting the bridge," the director of the Center for Political Information said.
Political analyst Pavel Klachkov drew attention to the political, geopolitical, economic and spiritual importance of putting the Crimean bridge into operation. "Since Crimea has played a very large consolidating role in Russia's domestic policy since 2014. Therefore, everything connected with the way Crimea integrates into Russia is of fundamental importance. Many problems related to the Crimea integration were connected with Ukraine. I often communicate with Crimeans, and I know that a lot of discrepancies arose in the style of management since 1991, and a lot of work is required in order to fully enter Crimea into the Russian framework. The Crimean bridge is a material symbol of this work, which strongly affects the mindsets of people," he stressed.
"The bridge has been heavily criticized by our opponents in Ukraine and the West, but it will connect the shores of Crimea and Kuban, further integrating the peninsula into Russian life. Vladimir Putin is an effective and experienced politician, he understands this bridge's importance for Russian residents and residents of the near abroad. This is an undoubted success of our economy, our builders, and even our politicians," Pavel Klachkov concluded.