Putin demands Kerch Strait bridge to Crimea by end of 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday ordered government agencies responsible for major construction projects to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea and Russia before the end of 2018.

The order was given on Wednesday at a session of the State Council, the country’s main consultative body, in Novosibirsk, Russian news agency TASS reported.

The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water separating Russia from Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March. 

The Russian government believes that the 19-km-long bridge across the straight is vital because all land routes to Crimea cross Ukraine. The project has been entrusted to the federal automobile road agency Rosavtodor.

Putin said the 2018 deadline could be met because Russia has recent experience in building large, complex infrastructure projects for the Olympic Games in Sochi, the APEC summit in Vladivostok and the World University Games in Kazan.

Earlier plans made jointly by Russia and Ukraine involved a car-only bridge, with an estimated cost of up to $3bn. However, after the annexation of Crimea and Ukraine’s withdrawal from the plans, Russia scaled up the project to include a rail link and other complementary infrastructure. In September the Russian government said it would cost $6.17bn to build the bridge.

President Putin said road infrastructure has been getting intense attention at the federal, regional and municipal levels in recent years and financing of the sector has been redoubled.

In May Russian media reported that Chinese firms had been in talks with Russia over helping to fund and build the bridge.

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