TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting on construction of Kerch Strait Bridge and Crimea and Sevastopol’s socioeconomic development

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Kremlin.ru – March 18, 2016)

Vladimir Putin held a meeting on construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge and on Crimea and Sevastopol’s socioeconomic development results and their integration into the Russian Federation’s economic and legal space.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.

Let me start by congratulating everyone on the second anniversary of Crimea and Sevastopol’s reunification with Russia. This is a symbolic event and certainly a good opportunity to discuss the situation with work to develop the region and integrate it closely into Russia’s common socioeconomic space. Let me say again that our efforts must focus on making Crimea and Sevastopol dynamic, successful and self-sufficient parts of our country.

I remind you that we adopted the Federal Targeted Programme for Crimea and Sevastopol’s Socioeconomic Development through to 2020, with financing totalling 708 billion rubles. This is a very solid figure and we must put this money to effective use and get maximum return.

I hope to hear reports on Crimea and Sevastopol’s development from the regional heads and the relevant officials, and from [Deputy Prime Minister] Dmitry Kozak, who oversees this work in the federal Government.

I want to note the results already achieved. Industrial output is on the increase, large projects are underway in the energy sector, agriculture, tourism and a number of other sectors. Defence industry companies now taking part in state contracts have received a big boost. If I recall correctly, defence industry companies in Crimea and Sevastopol have received state contracts worth a total of more than 7 billion rubles, and talks are underway to sign contracts worth another 4 billion.

Simferopol airport has been rebuilt and Sergei [Aksyonov] will brief us today on the plans for building the new terminal. (Addressing Sergei Aksyonov) Has the work begun, or is this still in the design phase?

Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov: The project is under expert review at present.

Vladimir Putin: When will this be completed?

Sergei Aksyonov: The design phase will be complete by April 1, and once we have the expert review finished, we will have a project ready for implementation. The construction work will get underway in summer.

Vladimir Putin: How long will the construction work take?

Sergei Aksyonov: We expect it to take two years.

Vladimir Putin: Good. I hope this will facilitate and improve transport links and boost the already solid flow of tourists.

The opening of the two energy bridge sections across the Kerch Strait last December was a big event in the lives of Crimeans and the entire country last year. You remember the conditions the construction took place in. Crimea faced a real energy blockade. People’s homes, social facilities and industry were all without power. I hope that the energy bridge will begin full operation this May.

Furthermore, the first units of the Sevastopol and Simferopol thermal power stations, with initial capacity of 470 megawatt and another 470 megawatt to be added by March 2018, will begin operation in 2017. This will provide the region with total energy supply of around 1,920 megawatt. Current peak demand stands at 1,300 megawatt, so this will provide 600 megawatt more, which will cover the growing economy’s demands and also the recreation and leisure sector’s needs.

The Kerch Strait Bridge, the construction site of which we are visiting today, is without question the key facility that will help us to make fullest use of Crimea’s rich potential. It will provide road and rail links from Crimea to mainland Russia, integrate the peninsula into the national transport flows, and increase connectivity of our various regions, which will certainly create new opportunities for economic growth.

I just visited the construction site now with our colleagues and saw how the work is going. Experienced specialists from Crimea, Sevastopol and many other parts of the country are working there. I am sure that everything will be carried out to the highest professional standards.

The construction and installation work has started now. This was preceded by lengthy preparations, during which the design solutions were finalised, support infrastructure was built, and technical roads and a working bridge were built. You could say that we have not one bridge, if we look at it from both sides, we have two or three, and the roads as well. Temporary settlements have been built for the workers, and mine clearing and archaeological work was carried out first on the areas where construction will take place.

I know that the archaeologists and volunteers discovered many valuable finds that reflect Crimea’s history at different periods, from antiquity to the Great Patriotic War. We must preserve this unique heritage, of course. I therefore propose that we look at the possibility of establishing a museum in Kerch for these historic exhibits and make them accessible to researchers, the public and the many tourists.

As you know, and if you don’t know, let me say now, that plans to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait first emerged during the reign of Nicholas II, and the first project was drafted in 1910, but World War I prevented this work from going ahead. In 1930, Soviet engineers drew up a project for a railway line from Kherson to Poti following this route, but the Great Patriotic War stopped these plans.

During the Great Patriotic War, the invaders built a bridge here, and they had plans to replace that temporary construction with a permanent bridge. During the military operations, the Soviet command decided not to bomb this stretch in order to preserve what had been built. A temporary bridge was built after the war, but it was demolished by ice floes. There were later attempts to rebuild the bridge, but nothing ever came of them in the end.

We see that our predecessors realised the importance of this bridge crossing between Crimea and the Caucasus and long since wanted to carry out this project. Let’s hope that we will succeed in carrying out this historic mission.

I note that the bridge is being built in strict accordance with environmental demands and standards. All necessary measures have been foreseen for protecting water resources, the atmosphere, and the plant and animal world. The public and the scientific community have had maximum involvement in assessing the project’s environmental impact.

Overall, we will need to organise broad public control over the construction work to ensure compliance with environmental requirements, prevent any funds from being diverted for other purposes, and make sure that deadlines are met. For this purpose, I propose that we set up a public council for the Kerch Strait Bridge’s construction.

The council’s work will enable us to make open and effective use of possibilities of the public, specialists and executive authorities during this construction process, and react swiftly to any serious matters of public concern. We had a similar council working during the preparations for the Sochi Olympics, and we can make use of that positive working experience.

Once more, let me thank everyone taking part in the construction work. I hope you will keep up the current pace. I note that the plan is for road and rail traffic to begin using the bridge on December 18, 2018. Let me stress here that the bridge’s construction must be integrated with an effort to improve throughput capacity and modernise the entire transport infrastructure in Crimea, including the roads from Kerch to Simferopol.

I was talking with some of my colleagues yesterday, and we said that we cannot allow a situation when the bridge is complete but the rest of the transport infrastructure is not ready and traffic jams result. This would make all of our work rather senseless. There must be a synchronised effort if we want to avoid this. We need a modern road system that works in coordinated and common rhythm.

Let’s move on to the discussions now.

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Overall, I want to say that much has been accomplished in this work to integrate Crimea and Sevastopol. I want to thank you for this. But we need to do more still. We must develop in full Crimea and Sevastopol’s great economic potential and recreation and leisure sector potential, and make sure that the results of our work meet in full the expectations of our people, including the people of Crimea and Sevastopol. I wish you all good luck.

Thank you.