Russia, China open cross-border bridge as ties grow stronger

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The flags of China and Russia are shown in this illustration photo taken March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

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June 10 (Reuters) – Russia and China on Friday opened a new cross-border bridge in the Far East that they hope will further boost trade as Moscow walks away from sweeping Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine.

The bridge connecting the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk to the Chinese city of Heihe over the Amur River – known in China as Heilongjiang – is just over a kilometer long and costs 19 billion rubles ($342 million) , reported the RIA news agency.

Amid a fireworks display, cargo trucks from both ends crossed the two-lane bridge adorned with flags in the colors of the two countries, video footage of the opening showed.

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Russian officials said the bridge would bring Moscow and Beijing closer together by boosting trade after announcing a “limitless” partnership in February, shortly before President Vladimir Putin sent his forces to Ukraine.

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

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

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

REDUCTION OF TRAVEL TIME

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

BTS-MOST said cargo traffic on the bridge would shorten the travel distance for Chinese cargo 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 as toll charges begin to offset the cost of construction.

Russia said in April it expected commodity flows with China to increase 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 = 57.8000 rubles)

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Reuters Editing reporting by Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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