Putin opens bridge to Crimean land annexed in 2014

Watch video 04:36  Crimea four years after the Russian takeover

The project cost approximately $3.7 billion and will become the longest bridge in Europe, taking over the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred control of Crimea from Russian Federation to Ukraine, and regaining the region has been a nationalist rallying cry for decades.

But it's also a symbol of Russia's global isolation.

The construction and installation of the bridge kicked off in February 2016. The Kremlin at first denied that the troops - masked men in camouflage without unit insignia - were Russian military, but later acknowledged that the so-called "little green men" were indeed Russian units. It has been eagerly anticipated by Crimeans as an economic lifeline to their now-isolated and sanctions-hit territory.

"I am confident that the aggressor will not succeed and will bear responsibility in full", Poroshenko said on Facebook, as translated by The Washington Post.

A rail section of the bridge is due to be completed in December of next year.

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".

Watch video 01:57  EU set to extend sanctions against Russia
Watch video 01:57 EU set to extend sanctions against Russia

Arkady Rotenberg, a Russian business mogul and Putin's former judo partner, led the project. Putin's move drew global sanctions and led to a deterioration in ties with the West.

In a symbolic gesture meant to wow the millions of his followers, the Russian president climbed aboard an orange Kamaz truck and, with other similar trucks of various colors trailing behind, started to roll down the brand new tarmac.

It's a plan that potentially could have far-reaching economic impact.

The railway bridge is not yet finished and has a deadline of the end of 2019.

EuroNews reported that Ukraine claims the bridge will also prevent large ships from passing through to the country's ports on the Azov Sea. The United States and its allies do not recognize the results of the referendum, but Russian Federation maintains that plebiscite was carried out in full accordance with global law. The European Union and the United States also used the opening of the bridge to condemn the annexation of Crimea.

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