Ukraine Opens Criminal Probe over Russian Train to Crimea

The passenger train that arrived in Crimea this week via a new Russian-built bridge illegally carried people across the Ukrainian border, officials in Kiev said on Wednesday, adding that the country has opened a criminal probe into the matter, AP reports.

Earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin inaugurated the railway section of the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. He said 14 million passengers and about 13 million tons of cargo are expected to move across the link next year. The train arrived in Sevastopol from St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city.

Putin congratulated construction workers on completing the bridge, saying that “it has proven our ability to carry out large-scale infrastructure projects.”

The $3.6 billion bridge consists of parallel automobile and railway sections. Planning for construction began in 2014. The automobile segment of the bridge was formally opened by Putin in May 2018 and made available for cargo traffic in autumn of the same year. The railway bridge will open to freight trains in June 2020.

Prior to annexation, train traffic ran between Simferopol and Sevastopol in Crimea to cities in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Since traffic was interrupted only suburban trains have kept running inside the peninsula.

Russia annexed Crimea on the grounds that residents of the peninsula voted to join up with Russia. The annexation elicited widespread international censure including U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia. Ukraine has blocked shipment of supplies via its territory to Crimea.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly said the new bridge was built in violation of international laws. In October 2018, prosecutors opened a criminal case against the companies involved in its construction.