Russian president Vladimir Putin has opened the 19km Crimea bridge linking the peninsula to Russia’s Krasnodar region in the Caucasus.
Two car lanes have opened to the public today but the railway section of the bridge is not scheduled to be completed in late 2019.
The crossing over the Kerch Strait, now the longest sea bridge in Europe, has been the subject of political tension since the 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and city of Sevastopol by Russia.
The bridge starts in the Taman Peninsula, passes over Tuzla Island, crosses the Kerch Strait and reaches the Crimean coast.
President Putin commented at the opening: "This is a truly historic day because in different historical eras, including during the tsars’ reign, people dreamed of building this bridge. They came back to it in the 1930s, then the 1940s and the 1950s.
"More than 10,000 people are working at this construction site, and at peak times the number exceeded 15,000. Almost 220 contractor companies are involved. In fact, the whole country worked on this bridge.
"This is an excellent result that has made Crimea and the legendary Sevastopol stronger and brought us closer. The bridge will mean faster and greater progress for the economy of Crimea and Sevastopol, and will improve the quality of life here.
"We will continue to work on similar projects across the country. And when I say across the country, I mean it. We will build more roads, bridges, airports and ports."
In a post on Facebook, the Russian embassy in the US said: "As one could predict, Washington is not happy with that. But Crimea is Russia. We shall not ask for anybody’s permission to build transport infrastructure for the sake of the population of Russian regions."
America does not acknowledge the results of the Crimean referendum that showed that the majority of its citizens wanted to join Russia – although the result was unsurprising given that 65% of residents described themselves as Russian in the 2014 census, compared with 16% who described themselves as Ukrainian.
The referendum was also said to be unconstitutional by the Ukrainian Constitutional Court and the UN.
Ukraine claims the construction of the bridge has broken international law.
In August 2017, the Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Putin, fearing the bridge would close off the waters of three Ukrainian regions.
Images courtesy of the Kremlin