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Meeting on the Crimean Bridge

July 17, 2023, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin held a videoconference meeting on the situation in the area of the Crimean Bridge.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev, Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov, Krasnodar Territory Governor Veniamin Kondratyev and Acting Governor of the Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.

We have heads of the regions – the Republic of Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory and the Kherson Region – online with us. Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin is on the site. Let us discuss the situation in the area of the Crimean Bridge.

As you know, another act of terrorism was committed on the bridge at night. Civilians were killed, a child was injured and lost her parents – the family was driving to Crimea from the Belgorod Region. I would like to ask the authorities of this region and federal government bodies to render all the necessary assistance to the injured girl and her relatives and to take this issue under control.

The terrorist act seriously damaged the road along several spans of the Crimean Bridge, and as a result auto and railway traffic was halted.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), the Investigative Committee and a number of other departments were instructed to investigate the incident thoroughly. I am sure they will establish all the facts.

Considering that this is the second terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge, I am waiting for specific proposals on how to improve the security of this strategically important transport facility. We discussed this in detail this morning.

On my instructions, a meeting of the special government commission with representatives of regions and federal agencies took place. Railway traffic has already been restored on the bridge.

Right now, it is important to provide comprehensive support to people who are in a difficult situation because of the suspended traffic on the bridge: both passengers on delayed trains and motorists on the road.

Please report on how issues with food and drinking water are being resolved, whether there are enough medical centres to provide assistance, how traffic is being redirected. What alternative routes have been proposed for cargo transport and passenger cars? How the safety of these routes and the operation of checkpoints are ensured? And, finally, how the capacities of the Kerch Strait ferry are being used?

Next, we must comprehensively assess the damage caused and begin repairs as quickly as possible. Please report on how the concentration of the necessary equipment and specialists is proceeding and whether it is necessary to engage additional forces and means.

I would like to ask you, Mr Khusnullin, to tell us about the current situation and the measures being taken, and then we will listen to our colleagues.


Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin: Mr President, following your instructions, we held the first meeting of the government commission this morning. All its members flew to the site and are here right now.

We inspected all the damages, I personally walked along that section together with engineers and builders, and we carefully inspected the damaged parts of the bridge.

After this inspection, we made one more decision on the spot and drafted joint proposals. Allow me to report on them and describe the situation in general.

We have set up catering places and installed bio toilets on both sides of the bridge. Water is being distributed, ambulances are on duty. Temporary accommodation centres have been opened in Crimea. There are no traffic jams on the approaches to the bridge; cars are at the parking lots. We explain the situation to the people in cooperation with regional administrations that are strictly monitoring this issue.

We have launched regular ferry service for passengers and organised bus trips, as well as for cargo transport.

The railway section is functioning normally, and trains are running on schedule. One track has some minor damages that do not affect train movement. Railway workers are inspecting them to determine the scale of repairs needed. Traffic on the highway section has been suspended for now.

After a visual inspection of the span supports, we have established that as a result of this terrorist act, one span structure of the highway section on the Taman side has been completely destroyed and is beyond repair. Another span, on the other side towards Kerch, has been damaged. There is an axial displacement of 70–80 centimetres, but on the whole, it is still on the support.

Builders and designers are conducting a full inspection of the bridge, divers are also engaged in this work. The preliminary surveys by the divers show that the bridge supports have not been damaged. This is very good news. We expected the worst, but they are good.

We plan to complete the reinforcement of the support, which has been damaged but is still ok, install roadblocks and set up partial lighting on the bridge by midnight. Tomorrow, we plan to restore the bridge lighting in full; we will complete this work by noon, Mr President.

If everything goes well, we will first let the 3-tonne cars pass to test the road and then 5-tonne cars. If nothing extraordinary happens, then at night, we will open one reversible lane for traffic. Passengers and drivers in the parking lots are asking us when we will start this. By 1 am, we will have a full picture.

We have already started mobilising builders and designers. Bridge constructors, specialists from institutes and repair teams are already arriving here. In Rostov, special facilities are being fitted out to assembly structures for enlargement of span structures. In the Voronezh Region, we have already started building metal span structures.

Tentatively, we are planning to restore two-way traffic on one side by September 15 and on the other side by November 1.

We understand that we will have to build 250 running metres of temporary bridge for us to work on because it is impossible to use floating cranes as the support is located right between the road and rail sections of the bridge. We will specify the timeframe once the design specifications and estimates are ready.

A number of decisions were made to arrange for traffic to go via an alternative land route in the new regions – it is allowed to pass through checkpoints without document inspections when leaving Crimea and the Rostov Region. Inspection times for those entering Crimea and the Rostov Region have been cut as much as possible.

Mr President, thank you for receiving the reports in the morning and issuing all the instructions to the Defence Ministry and commandants. Now we can move along the entire route round the clock. It is important to pay attention to this as well. Thank you, Mr President.

Additional security posts will be set up and traffic will be regulated.

Instructions were also given to the governments of the new regions to organise supplies of fuel and all necessities along the entire length of the route. The authorities of Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory and the Interior Ministry have informed the public about the alternative route.

The government commission will continue working. We have the experience and will report twice a day about the implementation of all decisions. We hope to complete all the work as soon as possible.

My report is over.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

This is good news if it is possible to speak about any good news in this case. But the main point is that the supports are not damaged.

Mr Aksyonov, go ahead please.

Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov: Mr President, colleagues,

Mr Khusnullin reported on the bridge, we are working together, we have been in touch with Mr Savelyev, Mr Kondratyev and our colleagues since last night.

In general, Mr Khusnullin outlined the situation on the bridge. One of the problem areas where we haven’t yet eliminated the queues, is the ferry crossing. Mr President, a total of seven ferries are operating: three civilian ferries, two dock landing ships and two train ferries. We are in regular contact with Mr Savelyev.

It is clear that there are adjustments from time to time because of the weather, but at the moment the wind, thank God, allows us to use the crossing: today we transported more than 255 lorries and 20 civilian buses. Moreover, we transport 450 vehicles per day on average; in the morning, understandably, there was a delay in launching the crossing service.

Now we have 321 cars in the port of Crimea and at the airport, where there is an area for parking cargo transport. We sent some of the cars to the Kerch ferry crossing this morning. We do not currently let cars use the ferry crossing, we ask everyone to bypass it because for obvious reasons, the priority is the Defence Ministry’s cargoes. There are 321 passenger cars, 255 lorries parked at the airport, and 129 lorries in the port of Crimea. We expect to resolve the situation within 24 hours and, accordingly, to eliminate the queue.

On the whole, of course, the waiting time for lorries is no longer than two days, Mr President. Moreover, during the two days, people are provided with free water directly at the Crimean port, and there are catering services on site. There are several shuttle buses that take drivers from there to the supermarket free of charge, which means that they practically buy everything they need. Bio-toilets are available on the Republic of Crimea side.

And in general, Mr President, we keep the holidaymakers informed to the largest extent possible through the website of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Crimea, the Ministry of Tourism and Resorts, that is, we provide maximum information.

Today more than 8,500 tourists called our hotline. For the most part, I handle all the questions myself. The main questions, 80 percent of them are requests for information.

And today, thanks to the measures that Mr Khusnullin spoke about and your decisions and instructions, we have no queues at the Dzhankoi, Perekop and Armyansk checkpoints, neither for entry nor exit. There were 50 vehicles waiting to enter from the direction of Dzhankoi, which is practically zero, and 50 vehicles from the direction of the Kherson Region to enter the Republic of Crimea, which is practically zero for the current situation. That is, there are no queues today or any problems with passing through the land corridor.

Therefore, in general, we are analysing the situation in detail. Even now, during the meeting, we are receiving calls. Mr Kondratyev and I are also in touch, we exchange information with our colleagues, everything is done in manual mode. By and large, it is the most effective way today.

In a day or two, Mr Khusnullin will finish the work and so the traffic on the bridge will resume. And on the whole, I think we will come out of this situation with honour.

Mr President, thank you very much. As for the rest, we are in contact with everyone, working together.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Aksyonov, we discussed this topic with you this morning, as well as with Mr Saldo.

Mr Saldo, do you have anything to add? I know that you are working closely with the Crimean authorities.

Acting Governor of the Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo: Mr President, thank you very much.

In addition to what has already been said, I will only add that along the entire length of the road that runs through the territory of the Kherson Region, additional places are being set up in case, for example, people who are travelling need service stops or to buy food. We do everything we can. We have agreed with all petrol stations – and there are more than 25 of them – that they will also operate and provide services to the population.

At the latest videoconference meeting Mr Khusnullin said that a way had been found to add funds for the repair of the road, which will be an alternative route towards Armyansk. Part of the road is good enough, but 60 kilometres have been practically destroyed by heavyweights recently. That part should be repaired. The builders are already planned.

Incidentally, there is a very large and world famous nature reserve Askania Nova on the way. People who are mainly going on vacation – we still have half the summer ahead of us – will be travelling to and from Crimea and will be able to visit Askania Nova.

Otherwise, everything necessary is in place: the buses are moving, everyone has been warned, everything is going as planned.

Thank you very much for the assistance.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Kondratyev, please.

Governor of the Krasnodar Territory Veniamin Kondratyev: Mr President,

Exactly half an hour ago I returned from the access roads to the Crimean Bridge and the Kerch crossing, and I saw with my own eyes the situation with cars and people trying to move from the region to Crimea.

The most important thing is to fulfil your previous instruction, to create the most comfortable conditions possible for all the people who are waiting to cross to Crimea, either in cars or in lorries.

Since early morning, we have been working to create four park-and-ride facilities for four thousand cars near the Kerch ferry crossing and the Crimean Bridge.

These parking areas allow everyone in cars to spend the time waiting for the crossing in as comfortable conditions as possible. These car parks have temporary kitchens, cold and hot water, catering facilities, ambulances on duty and hygiene points.

There are 750 cars in these park-and-ride facilities, waiting for the government commission’s decision on the possibility of crossing to Crimea via the Crimean Bridge. If necessary, we are ready to increase the number of car parks with a capacity of up to 5,000 vehicles.

All vehicles en route to the Krasnodar Territory are being notified, as they approach the region, that they can reach Crimea via the new territories, as mentioned before, to prevent congestion on the Crimean Bridge access roads.

We are informing everybody waiting in the parking areas that there are rooms available in affordable hotels in close proximity to the park-and-ride facilities. We understand that it is not a time to profit from the situation. We are going to ensure that families with small children can stay at the hotels close to these park-and-ride facilities.

Additionally, we are using an information board installed along the access road to Taman to notify travellers that the Crimean Bridge is currently closed to traffic and to give them details of the location of park-and-ride facilities so that all travellers understand that there is no point in driving to the Crimean Bridge and it is better to stay in equipped areas and wait for a decision.

Mr President, I would like to stress once again that, thanks to the measures taken today, we have fulfilled your instruction to transfer people from the traffic jams stretching for kilometres on the access roads to the Crimean Bridge, to parking areas equipped with essential facilities. It is very important.

However, if the decision is not made within the next 24 hours on the possibility of transiting to Crimea via the Crimean Bridge due to high risks, please, if it is possible, for 750 cars… These people are mostly Crimean residents. Many of them say that children are waiting for them at home. They are not tourists. They just went across to buy or see something and now they are on their way back home to their families. I spoke to them and it was not an easy conversation. Of course, they say that passing through the new territories is too long a detour.

If it is possible, please support transferring these 750 cars by ferry.

To organise this, it is necessary to simply give instructions to the Transport Ministry on transferring the cars waiting at the park-and-ride facilities by ferry and on installing additional screening checkpoints for cars at the ferry terminal.

I want to stress once again: we have successfully organised ferry transfer for lorries, that is heavy goods vehicles. They are not queueing up; everything is automatic. If we make room for these 750 cars, we can transfer these Crimean residents to Crimea by ferry.

This way, we will be able to relieve the tension caused by the traffic congestion and prevent it from building up further. From now on, people will know that they should not try to access the Crimean Bridge because of the current situation.

This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Savelyev, please comment.

Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev: Mr President, colleagues.

The Ministry of Transport immediately took measures to normalise the situation. I want to thank Mr Aksyonov and Mr Belozerov [Russian Railways CEO]. As early as four in the morning, we discussed the necessary action and at 8 am, the Transport Ministry opened a permanent situation centre for transportation and logistics issues.

I will not repeat what Mr Khusnullin has already reported. But I want to add that commuter operations across the Crimean Bridge have resumed in full and, in addition to the two trains running according to schedule, we have launched two more trains. Tomorrow, we will add two more trains and railbuses. Mr Belozerov issued a decision to launch two more Lastochka trains on July 19, thus ensuring full-scale railway operations.

My colleagues have already reported on the ferry service. I want to add that since 10:30 am today, when the ferry service was given the green light, we have made nine trips and carried 648 passengers, 30 buses and 188 vehicles.

I have just heard suggestions concerning 750 cars. I think tonight at 1 am, as Mr Khusnullin reported, we will reopen the bridge to motor traffic and then we’ll see if ferry transfer is necessary.

Until now, our priority task has been to provide the peninsula with food and essential goods. For this reason, we have been focused on transferring lorries.

I believe the action plan is clear. I want to thank the regional heads who promptly responded. We have been closely coordinating our efforts and will continue to do so tomorrow.

Thank you. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Ok. Thank you very much.

On the whole, the situation is clear. Everybody knows what to do. I expect that the action will be prompt and well-coordinated, to bring about the anticipated result.

Finally, I would like to repeat that the incident is yet another terrorist attack by the Kiev regime. This crime is meaningless from the military point of view because the Crimean Bridge has not been used for military supplies for a long time. It is also a violent crime because innocent civilians were killed.

Russia will certainly respond. The Defence Ministry is working on corresponding proposals.

July 17, 2023, The Kremlin, Moscow