International

NATO 'condemns' Russia bridge to Moscow-annexed Crimea

NATO on Wednesday denounced a new bridge linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea as "another violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A vehicle passes over the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on May 15, 2018, prior to the opening ceremony
A vehicle passes over the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on May 15, 2018, prior to the opening ceremony (POOL/AFP)

NATO on Wednesday denounced a new bridge linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea as "another violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Atlantic alliance echoed the European Union's earlier condemnation of the bridge, which Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a truck over on Tuesday.

"NATO condemns Russia's construction and partial opening of the Kerch Strait bridge between Russia and Crimea," NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet said.

"Crimea is part of Ukraine and this bridge represents another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Cazalet said in a statement.

The bridge, which limits sea traffic to Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea, amounts to "the infringement of its navigational rights in its territorial waters," he added.

"Russia continues to demonstrate a clear disregard for international law," Cazalet said, adding that NATO will not recognise Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) drives a construction truck across the new bridge over the Kerch Strait linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea during the opening ceremony on May 15, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) drives a construction truck across the new bridge over the Kerch Strait linking mainland Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea during the opening ceremony on May 15, 2018 (POOL/AFP)

Russian state television showed Putin dressed in jeans and a casual jacket sitting behind the wheel of a construction truck to drive across the bridge and officially open it.

The 29-member NATO is pursuing a dual-track policy towards the Kremlin of defence and deterrence coupled with an offer of dialogue.

Tensions between NATO and Russia are at levels not seen since the Cold War, including over Moscow's support for pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.