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Putin drives across new bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to Russia

AFP  |  Kerch 

Russian drove a truck across a new bridge linking mainland to Moscow-annexed today, triggering a fierce reaction from

Russian state television showed dressed in jeans and a casual jacket sit behind the wheel of a construction truck with workers to drive 19 kilometres across the bridge, which links the Taman peninsula in southern to Ukraine's peninsula annexed by in 2014.

"I want to sincerely congratulate you with this remarkable, festive and, in the full sense of the word, historic day," told workers upon arrival on the Crimean side of the bridge.

"In different historical eras, even under the tsar, people were dreaming of building this bridge," Putin told cheering workers.

He was referring to Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, who first proposed such a bridge, but the outbreak of World War I prevented it going ahead.

Another unsuccessful attempt was made in the 1930s under Joseph Stalin.

During World War II the occupying Nazis also began building a bridge but abandoned the project.

The Russian leader, who was re-elected for a fourth term in March extending his long rule, pledged to build more of "such projects" across The overtakes Lisbon's as the longest in

Built at a cost of 228 billion rubles (USD 3.7 billion), the new structure connects the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch, spanning a strait between the Black and

Ukraine, which along with most of the international community has not recognised Russia's annexation of Crimea, condemned the project which was personally championed by Putin.

"The Russian occupying powers, which have temporarily occupied Crimea, are continuing to act outside international law," Ukrainian told AFP in an interview.

has also previously complained that the construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the

The also criticised 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 statement by a of the European Union's foreign policy service, which said the bloc continues to refuse to recognise Russia's annexation of

Meanwhile, raided the offices of Russian in and detained one on suspicions of treason, moves the of Russia's television suggested were linked to the bridge opening.

The of the Kremlin-funded channel, Margarita Simonyan, wrote on that "decided to take revenge on us for the Crimean Bridge," after the raids on the offices of RIA Novosti state agency, which is part of the same group as

and US sanctions have targeted those involved in building the bridge, principally Putin's close ally, Arkady Rotenberg, whose company won the construction contract.

The annexation of the peninsula in 2014 was condemned by Kiev and the West as an illegal land grab but applauded in Russia.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 21:10 IST