July 2, 2022

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Russia and China open cross-border bridge as relations deepen

Russia and China open cross-border bridge as relations deepen

(Reuters) – Russia and China opened a cross-border bridge in the Far East on Friday, hoping to boost trade further as Moscow backs away from sweeping Western sanctions it imposed over its actions in Ukraine.

The bridge linking the Russian city of Blagovchensk and the Chinese city of Hehe across the Amur River – known in China as Heilongjiang – is more than one kilometer long and costs 19 billion rubles ($342 million), the RIA news agency reported.

Video footage of the opening, amid a fireworks display, showed freight trucks from both ends crossing the two-lane bridge adorned with the flags of the two countries.

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Russian authorities said the bridge would bring Moscow and Beijing closer together by boosting trade, after they announced a “borderless” partnership in February, shortly before President Vladimir Putin sent his forces into Ukraine.

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

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

Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev said the bridge would help boost annual bilateral trade to more than one million tons of goods.

The flags of China and Russia are seen in this illustrative photo taken on March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Law/Illustration

Cut off flight time

BTS-MOST, the company building the bridge on the Russian side, said the bridge had been under construction since 2016 and was completed in May 2020, but its opening was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions across the border.

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BTS-MOST said freight traffic on the bridge will reduce the travel distance of Chinese goods to western Russia by 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). Vehicles crossing the bridge have to pay a fee of 8,700 rubles ($150), a price that is expected to drop as tolls start to offset the cost of construction.

Russia said in April that 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 refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has criticized Western sanctions against Moscow.

(1 dollar = 57.8000 rubles)

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(Reuters report) Editing by Gareth Jones

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