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A bridge too far for Russia?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 01:30

Russia is pressing ahead with construction of a bridge which will link the Russian mainland with annexed Crimea. But, as David Pollard reports, it's behind schedule even though the Kremlin thinks it's vital to the region's economic development.

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As political symbolism goes, it doesn't get much bigger than this. A 19-kilometre bridge link between Russia and territory it annexed two years ago in Crimea. SOUNDBITE (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SPEAKING MARCH 18, 2016, SAYING: "I congratulate you from a large-scale construction site of the bridge to Kerch. It is a necessary, major work that will be finished by the end of 2018." Only, it won't - or at least not all of it. New reports say a rail link on the bridge faces delays of a year. Blamed on miscalculations over the weight of trains that will cross it. That too a symbol perhaps - of the strain the three billion dollar project cost could put on Russia's stretched budget. Ukraine, meanwhile - from whom Russia seized Crimea - is doing some bridge building of its own. Political factions in parliament are bidding to form a coalition after prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk's resignation. This man - Volodymyr Groysman - is tipped to lead it. But faces a tough task. The Russia-Ukraine crisis - and domestic corruption - has delayed billions of dollars in Western aid for a crippled economy. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT, SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "Any prime minister coming into Ukraine has to achieve that level of confidence, which unfortunately all his predecessors have failed to, whether they're prime ministers or presidents. It's showing yourself to be clean, legitimate and people you can do business with." Finance minister, US-born technocrat Natalia Yaresko, has been seen as a person Ukraine's Western backers could do business with. But amid the current political upheaval, it was far from clear she would keep her job.

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A bridge too far for Russia?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 01:30