: Moscow Times: Why Kerch may prove a bridge too far for Russia

16:07 Jun. 18, 2016

Moscow Times: Why Kerch may prove a bridge too far for Russia

Bridge between Crimea and Russia under construction (Getty Images)

"This project is purely political — it aims to mark the territory," says transportation and road construction expert  

"Our grandfathers built the Baikalo-Amur Siberian Mainline. So we are going to build the bridge," says a promotional videoclip on the website devoted to construction of the Kerch bridge.

Nineteen kilometers long, the dual road-rail bridge is set to connect Crimea with the Krasnodar region, making the disputed peninsula accessible by car and train directly from Russia. The long-awaited transport miracle is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Comparisons with the grandeur of the Baikalo-Amur Mainline, a gigantic construction project from Soviet times, are in line with how President Vladimir Putin sees the new Kerch bridge — something to land him in history textbooks.

However, the very ambitiousness of the project has meant it has come accompanied by doubts and debate. From the very beginning, the project seemed too expensive, too complicated, too unnecessary, and likely to fail. Earlier this month, the first alarm bell rang, as reports surfaced that construction companies that work on the bridge and belong to Putin's closest ally Arkady Rotenberg stopped receiving necessary state funding.

Kremlin officials, of course, were quick to deem the troubles temporary and bureaucratic in nature, and that nothing threatened the project. Indeed, for Putin it is — just like the Sochi Olympics — too big to fail, and experts and commentators agree that the bridge will be built after all. The question is when and at what cost.

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