Dressed in blue jeans and ditching his tie, Putin jumped into the driver's seat of an orange dump truck Tuesday and drove across the bridge with cameras recording every move.
Saying "A miracle has come true", Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a bridge linking Russia with Crimea yesterday.
"This bridge is a tool of economic and political pressure on Ukraine".
Mostik, the adopted mascot of construction workers in the project, boasted to his almost 35,000 Instagram followers Monday that he had already traversed the bridge, a full day before Putin's first crossing.
European Union and United States sanctions have targeted those involved in building the bridge, principally Putin's close ally, businessman Arkady Rotenberg, whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract.
When he arrived at the opening, Putin declared the day as "historical" and referred to the several unsuccessful attempts to build the bridge in the past.
Rotenberg was already under sanction for his ties to the Russian leader.
Conditions there have deteriorated since late March, when Ukraine seized a Russian fishing vessel it said had violated its territorial waters, analyst Paul Goble of the U.S. Jamestown Foundation think tank wrote earlier this month.
Earlier this week, the bridge was opened to vehicle traffic with the railway expected to be completed in 2019.
Recall, the US state Department still opposes the Crimean bridge, which was erected to communicate with the annexed Crimea. And its opening, according to the official narrative of Russian Federation, means the physical "reunification" of Crimea with the mainland Russian Federation.
"We will build more roads, bridges, airports and ports".
But it's also a symbol of Russia's global isolation.
The 11.8-mile bridge, which took two years to build, has been a highly controversial project, designed by the Russian President to show that Crimea had joined Russia for good.
Putin attended the official bridge opening ceremony on May 15.
The bridge's construction was led by Stroygazmontazh, whose owner, Arkady Rotenberg, has close connections to the Kremlin. In a separate written statement, she said that Washington "condemns Russia's construction and partial opening" of the bridge, which "was done without the permission of the government of Ukraine".
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