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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the official opening of a railway bridge linking annexed Crimea to southern Russia despite criticism of the infrastructure project from Ukraine.
Mr Putin stood in the driver's cabin of a train and spoke with engineers who helped build the 19 kilometres long bridge.
“With your work, talent, determination and single-mindedness, you’ve shown that Russia is able to do such world-scale infrastructure projects. This is after all the longest bridge not only in Russia but also in Europe,” Mr Putin told the workers.
“And you’ve shown that we can do such large-scale projects using our own technological abilities. This, without exaggeration, gives us all confidence that we can and definitely will do similar projects in the future.”
The railway bridge, which cost 212-billion-rouble (Dh12.5 billion), is part of a rail route that will connect the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg to the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
Mr Putin said the “magnificent” bridge would restore connections to the peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
The rail route, designed to integrate Crimea into Russia’s economy, will carry an estimated 14 million passengers and around 13 million tonnes of freight next year, the Russian President said.
Billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally of Mr Putin, won the contract for the project. The European Union bans European citizens and companies from investing in Crimea.
Ukraine criticised the construction of the bridge as well as the Russian President’s presence at the inauguration of the project.
President Volodymyr Zelensky's representative office for Crimea called Mr Putin’s visit to the peninsula "a gross breach by the Russian side of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
In a statement on Facebook, the presidential office accused the Kremlin of disregarding “the universally recognised principles and norms of international law”.
Updated: December 23, 2019 07:20 PM
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