Vladimir Putin strengthens Russia's hold on Crimea with new railway line

The Russian premier took a train across a new road and rail bridge which Russian engineers built to link Crimea to southern Russia, after the closure of an earlier route which ran through Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands in a cabin of a train traveling from Kerch to Taman across a bridge, which was constructed to connect the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait, in Kerch, Crimea December 23, 2019 (photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands in a cabin of a train traveling from Kerch to Taman across a bridge, which was constructed to connect the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait, in Kerch, Crimea December 23, 2019
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
President Vladimir Putin further strengthened Russia's grip on the Crimea with the inauguration of a new railway route which runs from mainland Russia to the annexed peninsula.
The Russian premier took a train across a new road and rail bridge which Russian engineers built to link Crimea to southern Russia, after the closure of an earlier route which ran through Ukraine.
"With your work, talent, determination and single-mindedness, you've shown that Russia is able to do such world-scale infrastructure projects" Putin told a crowd at the vent. "This is after all the longest bridge not only in Russia but also in Europe."
"And you've shown that we can do such large-scale projects using our own technological abilities. This, without exaggeration, gives us all confidence that we can and definitely will do similar projects in the future."
An aerial view shows a road-and-rail bridge, which was constructed to connect the Russian mainland with the Crimean peninsula, before the opening ceremony of its railway part, in the Kerch Strait December 23, 2019 (Photo Credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)An aerial view shows a road-and-rail bridge, which was constructed to connect the Russian mainland with the Crimean peninsula, before the opening ceremony of its railway part, in the Kerch Strait December 23, 2019 (Photo Credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Construction of the bridge, which is 19 km long, was opposed by Ukraine, which says it wants the Black Sea peninsula back.
The bridge, likely to be viewed as an important part of Putin's legacy, was designed to integrate Crimea into the Russian economy and to end its relative isolation by allowing Russia to supply it by road and rail as well as by sea and air.
Putin said the new rail route would carry around 14 million passengers and about 13 million tonnes of freight next year.
European Union sanctions ban European citizens and companies from investing in Crimea, including in the peninsula's transport and infrastructure, something which complicated Russia's drive to build the 212-billion-rouble ($3.4 billion) bridge.
The Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia in early 2014, and since then has been administered as subject to Russian law.
Ukraine opposed the move, which only heightened tensions between the two nations, as Russia is accused of military intervention in the civil war currently raging across much of eastern Ukraine.
Russia has said that any Russians fighting in the vicinity are "volunteers."