Go to contents

Putin rides train connecting Russia and Crimean Peninsula

Putin rides train connecting Russia and Crimean Peninsula

Posted December. 25, 2019 07:31,   

Updated December. 25, 2019 07:31


Russia opened the 19-kilometer Kerch Strait railroad bridge on Monday linking the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine seized by Russia in 2014 and Taman in Russia. The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the tensions surrounding the peninsula are rising with strong opposition from Ukraine and the European Union (EU) condemning the railway as “another violation by Russia of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “another step towards a forced integration of the illegally-annexed peninsula with Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the railroad bridge on Monday. He stayed in the engine room of the train crossing the bridge and saw over the surrounding area. He anticipated that the rail link will carry 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of freight between Russia and Crimea every year and have a positive impact on the overall economy of Russia.

President Putin’s train ride on Monday was broadcasted live nationwide in Russia. The operation of direct trains to Crimea from major Russian cities, such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, began immediately following the opening ceremony. A political intention to show off Russia’s effective control over the peninsula seems to be under all of these developments.

The construction of the Crimean Bridge and the Kerch Strait railroad bridge will cause significant difficulties in Ukraine’s access to the Mediterranean Sea from the Black Sea in its Southern region. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine were extremely high when Russian naval vessels arrested Ukraine’s near the Crimean Bridge last year. “Crimea is only temporarily seized by Russia,” said the Ukrainian government in opposition. “The Crimean borders are controlled by the Ukrainian government as well.” EU spokesperson Peter Stano also criticized Russia saying that the Kerch Strait railroad bridge limited free passage for ships heading to Ukrainian ports.

President Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed on December 9 on a total cease-fire in Donbass where armed conflicts between the Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian anti-government groups are continuing. However, the opening of the railroad bridge is expected to reverse the conciliatory mood between the two countries that seemed to be on its way for the first time in five years.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com