Russia and China open cross-border bridge as ties deepen

June 1 (Reuters) – Russia and China opened a new cross-border bridge in the far east on Friday which they hope will further boost trade as Moscow sanctions imposed over its actions in Ukraine.

The bridge linking the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk to the Chinese city of Heihe across the Amur river – known in China as Heilongjiang – is just over one kilometre long and cost 19 billion rubles ($342 million), the RIA news agency reported.

Amid a firework display, freight trucks from both ends crossed the two-lane bridge that was festooned with flags in the colors of both countries, video footage of the opening showed.

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Russian authorities said the bridge would bring Moscow and Beijing closer together by boosting trade after they announced a “no limits” partnership in February, shortly before President Vladimir Putin felt his forces into Ukraine.

“In today’s divided world, the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe bridge between Russia and China carries a special symbolic meaning,” said Yuri Trutnev, the Kremlin representative in the Russian Far East.

China wants to deepen practical cooperation with Russia in all areas, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said at the opening.

Russia’s Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev said the bridge would help boost bilateral annual trade to more than 1 million tonnes of goods.

Flags of China and Russia are displayed in this illustration picture taken March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

CUTTING JOURNEY TIME

The bridge had been under construction since 2016 and was completed in May 2020 but its opening was delayed by cross-border COVID-19 restrictions, said BTS-MOST, the firm building the bridge on the Russian side.

BTS-MOST said freight traffic on the bridge would shorten the travel distance from Chinese goods to western Russia by 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). Vehicles crossing the bridge must pay a toll of 8,700 rubles ($150), a price that is expected to drop the toll fees begin to offset the cost of construction.

Russia said in April it expected commodity flows with China to grow, and trade with Beijing to reach $200 billion by 2024.

China is a major buyer of Russian natural resources and agricultural products.

China has declined to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has criticized the Western sanctions on Moscow.

($1 = 57,8000 rubles)

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Reporting by Reuters Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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