Russia's Putin, in home straight of election campaign, visits Crimea

From Reuters - March 14, 2018

THE KERCH STRAIT/SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on Wednesday, touting his annexation of the peninsula to voters days before an election all but guaranteed to deliver him a second consecutive term in power.

Russias 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine drew international condemnation and sanctions, but many Russians saw it as restoring Moscows rule over a region they regard as being historically Russian.

Appearing in front of a crowd of cheering supporters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Putin said that, four years ago, the people of Crimea took the historic decision to become part of Russia.

With your decision, you restored historical justice which was violated in Soviet times when Crimea was torn away from Russia, Putin said, referring to a 1954 decision to designate the peninsula part of the Ukrainian Soviet republic.

He said there was still work to be done to raise living standards in Crimea, but said: When we are together we are a huge force able to resolve even the most difficult task.

Ukraines government, and Western states, reject the Russian argument that the people of Crimea chose to join Russia, saying there was an armed occupation by Russian forces in violation of international law.

Earlier on Wednesday, Putin inspected work on a bridge that will link Russia to Crimea.

The 19-km (12-mile) road-and-rail bridge across the Kerch Strait, which some Russians have dubbed Putins bridge, is designed to integrate Crimea with Russias transport network, and show off Moscows largesse.

The bridge will be the longest dual-purpose span in Europe when completed. It is seen as vital by the Kremlin to integrate Crimea into Russia, both symbolically and as an economic lifeline for the region.

Putin, accompanied by officials in hard hats, was given a tour of the still-uncompleted central section of the bridge, and posted for photographs with workers.


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