Leaders eye bridge to connect Russia, Ukraine
The leaders of Russia and Ukraine on Monday revived an ambitious plan to link the two nations by a bridge over the sea, in the latest demonstration of their newly-tightened ties.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych said they had told their governments to study the idea of building a bridge spanning the Strait of Kerch between Russia’s southern Krasnodar region and Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula.
Speaking after talks in the Russian southern resort town of Gelendzhik, Medvedev said construction of the bridge would be a complicated but realistic project.
“We’ve agreed to create a special working group which will make estimates of what needs to be done, will prepare a technical assignment,” he told reporters after the talks.
He said the two neighbours will aim to complete the bridge by the time Russia hosts the Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi in 2014.
Several banks will finance a feasibility study for the project which will take about a year to complete, Medvedev said.
The bridge plan “no doubt deserves presidential attention because it unites the two countries, (and) creates the best opportunities for border crossing for our citizens,” Medvedev said.
“It is a very important, fateful project,” he said.
“There are no doubts that this project is needed, that it will take off,” Yanukovych added.
The idea of linking the Krasnodar region with the Crimea has been around for years but has so far failed to get off the drawing board because of the cost.
Medvedev’s top foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko said on Friday that even preparing the feasibility study would be expensive.
The talks in Gelendzhik were the two leaders’ ninth meeting since Yanukovych was elected president in February on pledges to improve ties with Moscow. The Kremlin had refused to do business with the former fiercely anti-Russian government of Viktor Yushchenko.
Last week, Yanukovych accused the European Union of not wanting to even discuss Ukraine becoming a member of the bloc, saying it would now decide if it wanted to join at its own pace.