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Putin Inaugurated Bridge That Links Russian Mainland to Crimea

Relations between Russia and Ukraine remain extremely fraught as a simmering conflict continues between Kiev and Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine's southeast.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a highly-controversial bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, tightening Russias hold over the contested peninsula which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Position of Crimea. Pixabay

Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a highly-controversial bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, tightening Russias hold over the contested peninsula which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The 19-km, $3.7 billion bridge is Moscow’s only direct road link to Crimea. Russia expects it will carry millions of cars and rail travellers and millions of tonnes of cargo each year. Previously, all car traffic passed over the Kerch strait by ferry or by passing through Ukraine, the Guardian reported.

On Tuesday, Putin drove an orange Kamaz truck across the bridge as he opened the road to car traffic. “In different historical epochs, even under the tsar priests, people dreamed of building this bridge,” Putin told workers at the ceremony.

“Then they returned to this (idea) in the 1930s, the 40s, the 50s. And finally, thanks to your work and your talent, the miracle has happened.”

The Russian state media touted the bridge as the “construction of the century”. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had considered and then scrapped plans to build a bridge over the Kerch strait.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine remain extremely fraught as a simmering conflict continues between Kiev and Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s southeast.

In 2016, the US imposed sanctions on Russian companies that were helping to build the bridge across the Kerch strait. Ukraine said the construction of the bridge showed “blatant disregard for international law”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a highly-controversial bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, tightening Russias hold over the contested peninsula which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Vladimir Putin opened the bridge from Russia to Crimea. wikimedia commons

The US State Department said that “the bridge impeded ship navigation and goods delivery in the area and therefore it was watching the situation closely”.

The Russian embassy, however, said that “the US remarks were predictable and Moscow was not asking anyone’s authorization for building infrastructure projects on its territory.

“As one could predict, Washington is not happy with that. But Crimea is Russia,” the Russian embassy said in a statement.

“We shall not ask for anybody’s permission to build transport infrastructure for the sake of the population of Russian regions.”

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The bridge’s construction was led by Stroygazmontazh, whose owner, Arkady Rotenberg, has close connections to the Kremlin. Rotenberg was Putin’s judo sparring partner.

He was hit with sanctions by the US for his proximity to Putin and by the EU for being among those accused of undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The bridge was completed six months ahead of schedule, according to Russian state news agencies. It can reportedly carry up to 40,000 cars per day, its span is greater than that of the Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal, previously the longest in Europe. (IANS)

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Kenya, Uganda Sign Pact To End Cross-Border Conflicts Between Turkana, Pokot and Karamoja

The programme Cross-Border Sustainable Peace and Development seeks to end hostilities among the three neighbouring communities and enhance development in the region

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President Museveni, Uganda. Wikimedia Commons

BY GEOFFREY ISAYA

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni have witnessed the signing of an agreement aimed at promoting sustainable peace and development among Turkana, Pokot and Karamojong communities.

The programme dubbed Cross-Border Sustainable Peace and Development seeks to end hostilities among the three neighbouring communities and enhance development in the region by promoting non-violent interactions and collaborations.

The UN-supported intervention that will be led by a ministerial committee co-chaired by Kenya and Uganda will be implemented in the region to reduce tensions resulting from access to shared resources such as water and pasture.

Speaking during the launch ceremony in Moroto town, President Kenyatta welcomed the agreement saying it will help spur development in the region which has for many years suffered unnecessary communal conflicts.The UN-supported intervention that will be led by a ministerial committee co-chaired by Kenya and Uganda will be implemented in the region to reduce tensions resulting from access to shared resources such as water and pasture.

“This programme, in cooperation with the UN, is a programme that will help all of us to ensure that we have peace, our people live together and also to enable us develop,” the President said.

He said the peace and development programme will assist in transforming the border region from a conflict zone to an area of progress, development and wealth.

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President Kenyatta and Uganda’s Museveni signing the agreement on September 14, 2019.

The President noted that it is through wealth creation as envisioned in the signed peace and development agreement that the poverty that plague the region can be fought successfully.

“Peace is the foundation of all that is good. Where there’s no peace, no development, there’s no wealth that can be made. I want to thank President Museveni for the work he has done here to ensure that this region which was a conflict zone is now a region of peace,” the President said.

He called for free movement of people, goods and services across borders of African countries saying the continent can’t develop without free trade.

“If you don’t trade, you cannot create wealth. If you do not move, you cannot create wealth. And if you don’t create wealth, all you are doing is institutionalizing poverty. And we want to eliminate poverty from our people,” President Kenyatta said.

“Therefore, our coming here today is to demonstrate, first our unity as Kenyans with our Ugandan counterparts and our counterparts in the East African Community,” he continued.

The President, who was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Simon Chelugui (Water) and John Munyes (Mining), said Kenya will develop amenities including schools, dams and health centres on its side of the common border that will be accessible to all communities in the cluster.

President, Kenya, Uganda, Border, Conflict
President Uhuru Kenyatta|PSCU.

President Museveni, who spoke in Kiswahili and largely dwelt on development projects implemented by his administration over the years in the Karamoja region, thanked President Kenyatta for the various reforms that have enhanced cross-border trade and people-to-people interactions between Kenya and Uganda.

The Ugandan leader singled out reforms at the Port of Mombasa which he said have greatly improved the efficiency of processing and evacuation of Ugandan exports and imports respectively.

On regional connectivity infrastructure, President Museveni called for UN involvement in lobbying donor institutions and development partners to support more regional and inter-country roads.

“One of the advocacy points I want you (UN agencies) to help us with are these cross-border roads. We have already succeeded with His Excellency Uhuru with the road from Mbale through Kapchorwa, Suam to Kitale in Kenya. That one is being worked on.

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“In the same way, we want to work on the road from Moroto through to Kenya. We also need to work on the road from Nakiroro to Kenya… But above all, I want them (UN) to help us with the road crossing through Kenya to Southern Ethiopia,” President Museveni said.

Earlier, the two leaders commissioned the 2.3 million cubic litres Kebebe dam, a community water point that was constructed by the Ugandan government at a cost of 2.5 million US dollars.

The dam which is close to the Kenya-Uganda border serves over 1.5 million animals from the pastoralist Turkana and Karamojong communities.

Governors John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) and Josphat Nanok (Turkana) spoke at the launch event that was attended by several senior Kenyan and Ugandan leaders.