May 1, 2018

The Crimean Bridge as a Reflection of the Essence of Russia

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

For May 9, 2018 is scheduled the ceremonial opening of the bridge crossing through the Kerch Strait in the Crimea — the so-called Crimean (or Kerch) bridge, which has lately become one of Russia's largest megaprojects. The ceremony will be attended by Russian President V. Putin, who will open the bridge. The commissioning of the bridge crossing has a strategic significance for Moscow and is declared as the completion of the process of the Crimea's “reunion” with Russia.

This is what determined the Kremlin's choice to open the bridge on May 9, 2018 — on the day of the victory over Hitler's Germany, which has a clearly symbolic character. By this step, Putin's regime is trying to humiliate Ukraine, which it traditionally accuses of “supporting Nazism” and “leading nationalist policy”, and to demonstrate a “victory” over it, at least in the Crimean issue.

Today, such ideas have already become the main content of the victorious relations of Russian politicians and the media, which are fixed in the minds of the country's population and contribute to strengthening the domestic positions of the Russian authorities. Despite V. Putin's decisive victory in the elections in March 2018, this issue is again becoming relevant to Russia's ruling regime.

Thus, according to the results of sociological research of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, already in April of this year the confidence of the country's population in Putin has fallen from 55.4 % to 48.4 %. That is, the President of the Russian Federation is trusted by less than half of Russian citizens, while after capturing the Crimea by Moscow in March 2014, this figure was about 90 %.

According to Russian experts, the reason for this was a series of blows on the reputation of the leadership of the Russian Federation and V. Putin himself, immediately after his next reelection as the Russian President. The most resonant of them were: a fire in the shopping center “Winter Cherry” in the city of Kemerovo on March 26, 2018, as a result of which more than 60 people died (mostly children); the USA's introduction on April 6, 2018 of a series of new personal sanctions against individuals from the entourage of the President of the Russian Federation, which led to the fall of the Russian stock market and the Russian ruble; the “rubbish” crisis in Moscow region, which caused a conflict between local authorities and the Kremlin. All this has already been considered in Russian society as evidence of the “toxicity” of the country's authorities.

However, these problems have a deeper background and are a feature of the systemic crisis of the entire state system of Russia, which was created by the Putin regime. A manifestation of such a crisis is also the situation surrounding the construction of the Crimean bridge, which began to fall apart right before the eyes, even before its official opening. Contrary to all the efforts of the Kremlin to conceal this fact, it has already become subject to broad discussion in the media, first of all, in Russia itself.

Thus, according to Twitter users, at the end of April this year, one of the central pillars of the bridge has cracked, namely, 256th of the 595, which is almost in the middle of the Kerch Strait. Cracks have been noticed in two places, making it unsuitable for use. In view of this, works are underway to erect an additional reinforced concrete belt around it, which in fact should become a new bridge pillar.

According to the leadership of the Russian Federation, the above-mentioned problem is not of any importance and is a result of the supply of low-quality concrete by one of the contractors. To date, he has already been suspended from work and severely punished. Everything is supposedly all right, and the bridge will be put into service on time. However, the hard reality allows us to make completely different conclusions not only of the local, but also of strategic levels.

Firstly, the destruction of the central pillar of the Crimean bridge immediately after its construction became a vivid testimony to the unsatisfactory technical condition of the entire bridge. Previously, a similar problem arose also with the neighboring 255th pillar, which was built similarly with the use of poor quality concrete. Who can guarantee that the same poor-quality concrete was not supplied for the construction of other pillars. Especially as any statements by the leadership of the RF about the “lack” of any problems, as a rule, mean their real existence, and in the worst case scenario.

Secondly, serving the interests of the Putin regime, deliberately were neglected critically important construction norms for the construction of such structures which ensure the safety of their exploitation. In particular, in December of last year, was cancelled the provision of the Building norms and rules which allows the construction of arched bridges only on massive rock. This officially allowed to construct the Crimean bridge on unreliable semi-hard plastic clay layers that do not sustain and cannot sustain its weight. For example, after the installation of the central arch of the bridge, the construction gave an uneven settlement of 1 to 1.5 meters at different pillars. In turn, this caused an inadmissible displacement of the whole structure. According to the experts, with the start of the operation of the bridge, especially after the trains start running, the settlement of the pillars will be even deeper, which will create a real threat of collapse of the bridge.

Thirdly, the unsatisfactory technical condition of the bridge will require constant repairs, and hence additional financial costs. Given the already spent funds for the construction of the bridge — about 4 billion US dollars, it will create a real “black hole” in the Russian budget. Due to this, a strong source of permanent income for V. Putin's environment involved in the construction and operation of the Crimean bridge will continue. First of all, this applies to the well-known Russian oligarch, V. Putin's personal friend — A. Rothenberg, who owns the main contractor company “Stroygazmontazh”.

Fourthly, as already mentioned above, the Crimean bridge has a strategic significance for Russia, which requires its builders' special responsibility. Instead, they, including A. Rohenberg himself, have shamelessly been profiting from the construction, which poses a direct threat to the interests of the Russian Federation. Thus, A. Rothenberg has bluntly used Putin as a fall guy, calling into question the reliability and loyalty to him of all his entourage. This problem will become more acute as the USA introduces new personal sanctions against Putin's friends, as was done in early April 2018.

Fifthly, the commissioning of the bridge, even in the best technical condition, does not mean at all that the tourist attractiveness of the Crimea will increase as a basis for improving the economic situation in the Peninsula and restoring the positive dynamics of its development. Most Russian citizens have long been holidaying on resorts of other countries, which differ from the Crimea in the quality of services and in lower prices. And after the lifting of the Russian government's ban on the organized visits of Russian tourists to Egypt (was introduced after the terrorist attack by Islamic extremists against the Russian passenger plane A321, flying from Sharm-es-Sheikh to St. Petersburg on October 31, 2016), Crimean resorts will completely lose their popularity.


However, the situation around the Crimean bridge is not an exception to Russia and has become just another manifestation of Moscow's “fake” policy to create an impression of “success” in achieving its goals, as well as to get opportunities for theft of budgetary funds. Besides the construction of the bridge across the Kerch Strait, such an approach was observed in the construction of infrastructure complexes for the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Vladivostok in September 2012 and the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February 2014. Most of the objects of these complexes were built not just with a violation of technical norms and began to collapse before they were put into operation, but have proved to be useless and not needed after the completion of the events for which they were built.

Thus, absolutely similar to the Crimean bridge is the bridge from Vladivostok to Russkiy (Russian) Island (exactly where the APEC Summit was held), which Russian media used to call the “grand construction of mankind” and “masterpiece of design”, which “has no analogues in the world”. It really does not have analogues. The bluff of such allegations became obvious immediately after the opening of this “masterpiece”, which cost the Russian budget 32.5 billion rubles (1 billion US dollars at the current rate). In particular, after a month of work, the stay cables of the bridge shrank to a magnitude that corresponds to 40–50 years of its operation. At the same time, massive violations in the construction of the bridge were also discovered. Metal structures were stolen worth 100 million rubles, which caused significant damage to the reliability of the bridge. According to O. Mitvol, former deputy head of the “Rosprirodnadzor” (Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources), to date the bridge is in such a condition that it would be “…better to disassemble than to repair”.

The same fate has befallen the new highway to the bridge from the airport Vladivostok, which was also constructed for the APEC Summit. In September 2012 delegations of the summit participants, including about two dozen presidential corteges, were supposed to drive along it. The total cost of the construction amounted to 29 billion rubles. Despite these costs, due to overuses and violations of technology, the road was ruined by the very first rain. At this, not only the road pavement suffered (sank and cracked), but a supporting wall at one of its sections collapsed.

By the way, the APEC Summit in Vladivostok in September 2012 was the most expensive event by the about 100 billion rubles spending from the state budget of Russia. At the same time, it remains a pure PR project without any concrete results.

In turn, the main method of the preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February 2014 was the so-called “last-minute-workathon” during the construction of its infrastructure facilities, namely — the fulfillment of time-bound tasks at any price. On the one hand, it was a consequence of a lack of time, and on the other hand — again, Moscow's desire to impress the world with Russia's imperial grandeur. As expected, all this led to mistakes in the design of objects, as well as massive violations of construction technology and unfinished work that remained even after the opening of the Games.

In addition, the construction of the Olympic infrastructure was accompanied by a number of other scandalous issues, including theft of funds, resettlement of local residents without any compensation, destruction of natural reserves and pollution of the environment.

All in all, the cost of the Olympic Games in Sochi amounted to 1.5 trillion rubles (about 51 billion US dollars at the then rate), however, like in the case with the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, the results were not worth the expanses. After the completion of the Olympics, most of the objects that were built for the Games, remained unused and are gradually falling into decay, in some places becoming wild and turning into dumps.

The same fate has befallen the residential areas of Sochi, which were constructed for the Olympics. According to local residents, most of them have turned into “ghosts” without gas, water, heating and sewage, and as a result — without inhabitants. At this, they are being openly plundered by the same locals and come “touring pickpockets”. All that can be taken out is being taken out, including boilers, bath and toilet equipment and even the floors.

The buildings constructed on the funds of the Olympic budget, were planned to be sold to get profit, which had not only to compensate, but also to exceed the cost of their construction. However, criminal cases against the organizers of illegal criminal schemes did not allow these plans to be realized. According to impartial experts, “…in fact, the Olympic objects have no future. After the pompous games, tens of billions of spent money proved to have been cast to the wind”.

Not smaller volumes of funds were tossed to the wind during another “construction of the century” — the cosmodrome “Vostochny”, which also is coming into operation with a mass of unfinished works at every stage of its commissioning. At this, the total amount of stolen money discovered by the investigating authorities of Russia amounted to over 5 billion rubles. Little wonder that the first successful launch of the “Soyuz-2.1a” rocket-carrier took place on February 1, 2018, after two unsuccessful attempts.


However, let's return to the Crimea. What is there to say about the Crimean bridge, if the maintenance of roads in the Peninsula has become a significant problem for the occupying authorities. Evidence of this was the consequences of the landslide on the highway Simferopol-Sevastopol in March 2017, which resulted in its staying off normal operation for several months. As the inhabitants of the area point out, “…no one has seen such stagnation since the times of the Soviet Union”.

This is how the whole of present-day Russia, which is nothing else but the Putin regime's “Potemkin's Village” or the “giant with feet of clay”, only with nuclear weapons. I wonder if Putin would dare to open the Crimean bridge after all these problems. Most likely, he will, because Moscow's imperial ambitions have always been above the issue of prosperity, security and life of Russian citizens.


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