Putin to open controversial bridge joining Russia with annexed Crimea

Vladimir Putin will open the longest and most controversial bridge in Europe today that will connect Russia with the annexed Crimean peninsula.

The Russian President will be protected by a huge security operation spearheaded by the FSB security services amid fears of attacks by Ukrainian nationalists.

The leader of the Kremlin has said that the 12-mile link was a dream of the tsars and Stalin but has only happened under his rule.

However, the project, which has cost a staggering £2.75 billion has led to a wave of sanctions from the EU and US.

After the inspection today, the first regular traffic will cross the Crimea Bridge at 5.30 am tomorrow.

Ukraine has slammed the construction by the “the Russian occupation forces”.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after the toppling of pro-Moscow Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev.

The bridge spans a treacherous strait between the Black and Azov seas, and gives a key link to the Russian mainland.

A rail crossing is due to be completed late next year.

Putin said previously of the “mighty” bridge: "This is a project that they tried to achieve back under the tsar.

“Then in the 1930s they tried to do it — they also couldn’t. And they tried later — nothing worked out.

“But we managed it. That’s great.”

He added it is “a unique structure not just for our country but I think that in the whole world there are few similar”.

Heavy vehicles have already been driven across the bridge in preparation for Putin’s arrival, although approach highways are not yet complete.

However, there is still a concern in Russia over security.

Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov has warned: “We are constantly expecting provocations from Ukraine but believe me, we are highly ready to resist any attacks.”

He vowed: “The professional readiness of the FSB, police, and Russian National Guards is high.

“Nothing can be excluded with this kind of power in Kiev.

“They are fully dependent on Americans, they do not think about consequences for Ukraine.

“At first they said that there won’t be any Crimean bridge, now they are talking some nonsense that they will block the movement on the bridge.”

Ukrainian businessman Lenur Islyamov called for all cars using the bridge to be logged and sanctions imposed on each driver.

“I do not know how to do it but I am convinced that if Ukraine cannot stop the movement on the bridge, at least all transport should be registered that goes from Russia to occupied Crimea.

“Everyone must be located, name by name.

“They are no different from any others who are illegally cross the border between countries.”

The bridge will cope with 40,000 cars a a day on four lanes between the mainland and Crimea which is a popular Russian holiday destination.

Top speed in 90 kph or 56 mph.

Ships will be able to pass through a 115 ft arch high in the deepest part of the strait.

The bridge will end the reliance on sea transport for food and other vital supplies to Crimea because Ukraine blocked land routes.

"The Crimean Bridge team consists of over 10,000 workers and engineers,” said Rotenberg.

It was completed six months ahead of schedule “in difficult natural conditions," he said.

In length it exceeds the Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal.

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