Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday drove a Mercedes car across a flagship bridge to occupied Crimea that was seriously damaged in an explosion.
“We’re driving across the right side” of the bridge, Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin seated beside him in the vehicle, in footage broadcast on state TV. “The left side as far as I understand is in working condition but it needs to be fully restored.”
At one point, Putin pulled up to the location where the Oct. 8 blast took place and got out of the car to discuss repairs to the road and rail span across the Kerch Strait, which he ordered built after annexing Crimea in 2014.
The Kremlin blamed an act of “terrorism” by Ukraine for the explosion that ignited a fuel train and caused the partial collapse of the road bridge into the sea.
Ukrainian officials didn’t claim responsibility for the attack on the bridge, which was being used to help supply Russia’s invasion forces in southern Ukraine. But the country’s postal service quickly announced a new stamp noting the blast.
Russia raced to reopen one lane of traffic for light vehicles and a partial train service to the peninsula.
Putin opened the 19-km bridge in 2018 by driving a truck at the head of a column of vehicles along it. Construction costs were about $3.7 billion.
The Russian leader said Monday that Russia also needs to guarantee a link with Crimea on land via Ukrainian regions that Russia has annexed, though it doesn’t control any of them fully.