The U.S. has formally condemned the construction of a new bridge that connects Russia with Crimea.
Under Secretary of State Heather Nauert called the bridge an attempt to consolidate the “illegal takeover” of Crimea by Moscow, Global News Inside reported this week.
“The construction of the bridge in Russia serves as a reminder of Russia’s continued willingness to circumvent international law,” Nauert said.
The new bridge connects the peninsula of Tamán in southern Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014. Since then, most in the international community agrees that the annexation was illegitimate and that Crimea is still a part of Ukraine.
“The United States condemns the construction and partial opening” of the bridge, Nauert said, and that the project was carried out “without the permission of the government of Ukraine.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the inauguration of the $4 billion bridge where he led a convoy of work trucks across to the Crimean side.
Putin signed autographs and shook hands with the workers as state media documented the event.
The bridge can support up to 40,000 passenger cars per day and is now the fastest way to reach Crimea, which has become a popular tourist and vacation spot for Russians. Along with cars, the bridge will also include a railway, which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2019.
“The bridge represents not only an attempt by Russia to consolidate its illegal takeover and occupation of Crimea, but it also impedes navigation by limiting the size of ships that can transit through the Kerch Strait, the only way to reach the territorial waters of Ukraine in the Sea of Azov, “ Nauert added.
Nauert explained that the U.S. reaffirms its commitment with the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and warned that U.S. sanctions related to Crimea “will remain in force until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
The Crimean peninsula was annexed by Russia in early 2014. It currently exists as two Russian federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.
The vast majority of the international community – including the U.S. – has not formally recognized the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia. Most nations openly reject previous referendums and instead consider Crimea and Sevastopol to be administrative divisions of Ukraine.