"Let's hit the road!" So proclaimed Vladimir Putin before he drove a large construction truck Tuesday to road test the much-anticipated and controversial bridge linking southern Russia and the Crimean peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The 11.8-mile bridge, which took two years to build and cost $3.6 billion, is Putin's project to show that Crimea has joined Russia for good, reports the AP. Transportation links to Crimea deteriorated after both the Ukrainian and Russian militaries set up checkpoints into the peninsula and trains crossing the Ukrainian mainland were canceled. The Washington Post reports that Russians could previously only reach Crimea via plane or ferry. As of Wednesday, the bridge will be able to handle up to 40,000 cars daily, though the New York Times notes the major highways that flow into the bridge on both sides are still being constructed.
- Tuesday's test drive took a little under 20 minutes and was covered live by Russian state television. Reporters and cameras were stationed at several spots along the route. One reporter hailed the bridge as an example of "heroism of the workers."
- The only hailing done by Ukraine and the West was hailing the bridge as illegal. The AP reports Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lambasted the bridge as "yet another piece of evidence of the Kremlin ignoring international law" and "an attempt to legitimize the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula."