May 16, 2018 13:49 UTC
  • Putin drives truck over bridge linking Russia to Crimea

Russia President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a road-and-rail bridge connecting southern Russia to the Crimean Peninsula by driving a heavy truck on it himself.

Putin, behind the wheel of a construction truck, drove 19 kilometers on Tuesday on the auto section of the road-and-rail bridge built over Kerch Strait, which is now the longest in Europe.

“At last, thanks to your hard work, your talent, this project, this miracle has happened,” Putin told the crowd of workers.

He was later met by cheering workers at the other side of the bridge.

“I want to sincerely congratulate you with this remarkable, festive and, in the full sense of the word, historic day,” Putin told workers on arrival on the Crimean side. “In different historical eras, even under the tsar, people were dreaming of building this bridge.”

The president was referring to Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, who first proposed such a bridge; but the outbreak of World War I prevented the plan from going forward.

The bridge was expected to be fully constructed by the end of 2018, but was completed six months ahead of schedule and opens to traffic on Wednesday.

Being Moscow’s only direct road link to the peninsula, the bridge has another section for trains, which is set to be unveiled next year. The project, which cost $3.69 billion, will be able to handle 40,000 cars a day and reduce Crimea’s reliance on sea transport.