President Vladimir Putin drove a truck across a new bridge connecting mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea Tuesday, a project Ukraine has condemned as a violation of international law.
Russian state television showed Putin behind the wheel of a construction truck with workers on the nearly 20-kilometer drive across the bridge, which aims to integrate Crimea with Russia's transportation network.
Putin told workers on live television after driving across the span; "I congratulate you on this historic holiday. It will allow [us] to develop with new pace and new quality the economy of Crimea, [the Crimean port city of] Sevastopol, to raise people's standards of living."
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman condemned the project, saying it has damaged the environment and that larger ships will not be able to pass through its ports on the Azov Sea.
"The Russian occupying powers, which have temporarily occupied Crimea, are continuing to act outside international law," Volodymyr told the French news agency.
Russia annexed Crimea, a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in eastern Europe, in 2014, a move that was condemned by Ukraine and the West as an illegal land grab.
The bridge will make the peninsula easier to reach from southern Russia. Long lines of vehicles frequently form as they wait to board ferries, which can't always run in winter storms.
Crimea is a popular destination for Russians during the summer and Putin said he would like to see the bridge open in March when the time the season arrives.