Putin drives truck across new bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia

EPA  OLIVIER HOSLET

The ceremony will be held with the participation of Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a truck across a new bridge connecting mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea Tuesday, a project Ukraine has condemned as a violation of global law.

Ukraine said the move showed cynical disregard for global law.

Putin thanked the organizers of the project, who put the interests of the state over those of particular groups, the sappers, ecologists, scientists and other sectors involved.

"The Russian Federation has constructed the Kerch Bridge to the Crimean Peninsula without Ukraine's consent. Particularly cynical is the fact that its discovery comes on the eve of the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people by the Stalinist regime", - wrote Poroshenko.

Russian Federation annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and prompting a deterioration in ties with the West.

Built at a cost of 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion), the new structure connects the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch, spanning a strait between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. When opened for traffic on Wednesday, it will be able to carry up to 40,000 cars per day on four lanes.

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Putin is known to drive automobiles himself from time to time during working trips about the country.

"Putin once more demonstrated that when he carries them out, even the most ambitious plans can be achieved", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Tuesday.

The road stretch of the bridge was due to be completed by the end of 2018, but the opening was moved up at Putin's request.

Crimea is popular among Russians as a summer holiday destination and Putin said in March he would like the bridge to be ready for the season.

The United States said the bridge opening was an attempt to solidify Moscow's "unlawful seizure" of the Ukrainian territory.

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

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 global 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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