US condemns opening of bridge linking Crimea to Russia

A vehicle runs down the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge passing over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on May 15, 2018, in Kerch, prior to the opening ceremony. Russian President, on May 15 is set to unveil a 19-kilometre-long bridge linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula annexed from Ukraine, a highly symbolic project he has personally championed. Built at a cost of 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion), the new structure connects the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch, spanning a strait between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. AFP

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States condemned Tuesday the inauguration by Vladimir Putin of a bridge linking Crimea to mainland Russia as an attempt to solidify Moscow’s “unlawful seizure” of the Ukrainian territory.

“Russia’s construction of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia’s ongoing willingness to flout international law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The US rebuke came after Russia’s president drove a truck across the Kerch Strait bridge, which links the Taman peninsula in southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Reasserting that “Crimea is part of Ukraine,” Nauert said “the United States condemns Russia’s construction and partial opening” of the bridge, carried out “without the permission of the government of Ukraine.”

“The bridge represents not only an attempt by Russia to solidify its unlawful seizure and its occupation of Crimea, but also impedes navigation by limiting the size of ships that can transit the Kerch Strait,” she said.

Nauert reaffirmed the US commitment to “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” warning that all Crimea-related American sanctions “will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”