By Sebastian Shukla and Jack Guy, CNN
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a visit to the Kerch Bridge, a key link between the annexed Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia which was partially destroyed by an explosion in October, according to Russian state media.
Photos and videos from the visit have been released, including footage of Putin behind the wheel of a Mercedes vehicle sitting beside Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin. In another video Putin is seen walking along a section of the bridge.
In the driving video, Khusnullin tells Putin that “metal was available for bridge parts, so the metal was brought over to build these structures, and within two weeks all the 1,214 tons were assembled and brought here.” This is an apparent reference to the damage caused to the bridge by the explosion on October 8.
In a video released by Russian state TV, Putin asks: “How many people worked on the repairs?”
Khunsnullin replies that there were “500 people, three floating cranes, four barges and 31 pieces of equipment around the clock.”
During the visit, a worker told Putin that, while traffic had been scheduled to resume on December 20, “critical decisions which accelerated construction” allowed the section to be reopened on Monday.
The 11-mile Kerch Bridge is the longest in Europe and carries both road and rail traffic. It is strategically important as it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.
The bridge was severely damaged when a fuel tanker exploded and destroyed a large section of the road.
The Kremlin was quick to blame Kyiv for the explosion, and Putin alleged that it was an act of “sabotage” by Ukrainian security services.
On October 14, Moscow announced plans to complete repairs on the bridge by July 1, 2023, according to a decree published on the government’s portal.
In 2018, Putin symbolically drove a truck across the Kerch Bridge to mark its opening, which was greeted with great fanfare on Russian state TV.
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CNN’s Anna Chernova, Hannah Ritchie and Uliana Pavlova contributed to this report.