The Russian president officially opened a train bridge spanning Crimea and the Russian mainland. His journey marked the first time that trains have been able to run off the peninsula since its annexation in 2014.
He crossed the 19-kilometer (12 miles) bridge from Kerch on the Crimean side to the Taman peninsula on mainland Russian accompanied by construction workers. Spectators watched the crossing on a screen from Taman Passazhirskaya station.
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 (€3.25 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 the 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.
The opening of the bridge to commuter traffic now makes it possible to travel between St. Petersburg and Sevastopol, with the journey lasting nearly 43 hours. The first train undertaking this mammoth journey was timed to arrive in Crimea shortly after the St. Petersburg-born Putin opened the bridge.