Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to boost Russian morale by crossing a bridge into Crimea that was damaged by a truck bomb in October.
He took the wheel of a Mercedes to cross the bridge connecting mainland Russia to the peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Like other Western carmakers, Mercedes halted vehicle sales to Russia and halted production at its assembly plant near Moscow after the Russian military operation in Ukraine began.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was not trying to make a political point by driving the Mercedes and not a Russian-made Auris sedan, saying the president only used an available car.
The president also spoke with workers involved in the restoration of the 12-mile bridge, which has been the main channel for transporting supplies to Crimea, which has served as a key base for Russian military operations in Ukraine.
Ahead of Ukraine’s threats to launch new attacks on the bridge, Putin stressed the need to build a highway along the Azov Sea coast to connect Crimea with Russia’s southern regions, the Kremlin said.
The October 8 car bombing cut off traffic on one of the two lanes of the bridge.
Russia blamed the attack on Ukrainian military intelligence and responded with several waves of attacks against Ukraine’s energy facilities and other key infrastructure.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said widespread attacks on power, telecommunications and water infrastructure last week were aimed at weakening Ukraine’s military potential and derailing Western arms shipments.
Ukrainian authorities said there was another such bombardment on Monday, hours after Russian media reported two explosions at airbases in Russia.
One reportedly took place at a base that houses nuclear-capable strategic bombers that have been involved in launching attacks against Ukraine.
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