Putin drives across new bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to Russia

EU sanctions five people for organising Russian elections in Crimea

"France condemns the construction by Russian Federation of the Kerch Bridge, which deprives Ukraine of full access and the use of its internationally recognized territorial waters", a French foreign ministry spokesperson said.

He stressed that despite the futile attempts of Moscow to legitimize temporary occupation of Crimea, a coherent solution to a number of global jurisdictions confirm - "the burden of the flawless worldwide crime for Russian Federation will only grow".

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko slammed Putin's actions.

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed its strong protest against the launch of the bridge across the Kerch Strait by Russian Federation in occupied Crimea and once again stressed that the construction of this facility without the consent of Ukraine is unlawful.

The annexation of the peninsula in 2014 was condemned by Kiev and the West as an illegal land grab. But many in Russia saw the move as restoring Moscow's rule over a historically Russian region.

The project cost 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion, €3.1 billion) and will become the longest bridge in Europe, taking over the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal.

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"Putin initiated this project himself".

Speaking to the builders of the bridge, Putin said there had been plans to construct such a bridge since the times of the Russian tsars, without mentioning that a previous bridge had actually existed in 1943-1944 thanks to two dictators - Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union.

"This is an extremely important day from this point of view and in a practical sense and in symbolic terms".

Originally, the bridge was expected to be built before 2018 and put into operation in the summer of 2019.

The Crimean Bridge will open to traffic in both directions on Wednesday, May 16.

At the other end of the 19-kilometer bridge, in Crimea, Putin attended a brief open air show.

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