- Annexation.Putin returns to Crimea to regain lost popularity
"Nash Krim [Crimea is ours]" is the cry of head of the Russian patriotism and nationalistic side since 2014. In March of that year Russian soldiers took the peninsula by facilitating the organization of a referendum on secession. If something was missing for the Russians to totally feel that territory as part of their country it was the railroad, which has been inaugurated today. Russian President Vladimir Putin has presided at the opening ceremony of the railway section of the bridge over the Kerch Strait. Five years after the annexation declared illegal by the West, Crimea already looks less like a colony and looks more like a Russian province.
The Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia are connected by the longest bridge in Europe (19 kilometers) already was open for cars in May 2018. The first passenger train from St Petersburg to Sebastopol cross the Strait of Kerch the December 25th. For greater patriotic exaltation, during its passage through the bridge the illumination of its arches will mimic the colors of the national flag of Russia. Until the construction of the bridge (which cost about 3,600 million euros) Crimea had no land connection with the country that was annexed in 2014. This has caused problems of water, electricity and supply isolation, with a Ukrainian government shortly willing to collaborate after Russian interference in its territory.
Grand Service Express is the company that operates that route. The large state rail company, RZhD, like other Russian companies, avoid operating in an area subject to control and vetoes from outside the country.
Under EU sanctions, European companies and even private citizens are prohibited from investing in Crimea, including in their transport and infrastructure. This has caused problems when it comes to providing trains to the Crimean railway company, which now belongs to the Russian state. To the point that the Ministry of Transportation has not been able to explain where the 176 locomotives and wagons that it has transferred to the entity come from.
Tickets for sale
Ticket sales began last Friday. The first passenger train, operated by the Grand Service Express company, departed from St. Petersburg today at 2 pm local time, reports Sputnik. Passengers will enjoy an unprecedented 43 - hour trip by 3,650 rubles (52 euros). The first trains in Moscow will depart for the Crimean capital, Simferopol, on December 24, with tickets starting at 2,966 rubles (42 euros) for a 33-hour trip.
As Kremlin press secretary Dimitri Peskov said, the president "will then travel from Crimea to Krasnodar territory by train and chat along the road with the workers who built the bridge."
Crimean authorities expect that the opening of the rail connection will connect tourism to the peninsula , which last year received 6.8 million visitors. Crimea is also a candidate for a new round of tax exemptions and investment incentives, to support the tourism industry of the peninsula, according to the Russian newspaper 'Kommersant'.
The annexation of the peninsula has not been recognized by most countries. The annexation has been expensive for Russia, which has invested billions in infrastructure and paid the cost of sanctions for taking over that territory ignoring the Ukrainian government. Bloomberg Economics analysts estimate that sanctions have eaten up to 6% of Russia's economy in the past five years. The number of Russian companies and citizens that are subject to US sanctions has quadrupled to more than 700 since 2014, according to a calculation by the same agency in March this year. But the Russians can finally travel to this end of their territory, which belonged to Russia within the USSR until 1954, without taking a ship or a plane. Using the same means of transport that at the beginning of the 20th century connected the country with its extreme east and spilled it from west to east: the railroad.
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