Russia and China deepen ties with Amur River bridge
Russia and China deepen ties with Amur River bridge

Russia and China have finished building the first road bridge linking their two countries, Russian officials said on Friday, in the latest sign of warming relations.

The bridge across the Amur River will connect the cities of Blagoveshchensk in Russia's far eastern region and Heihe in northeastern China and is intended to increase the volume of freight traffic and agricultural trade between the two countries.

It is expected to open in the spring of 2020, said Russia's Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic.

"We are forming a new international transport corridor," Vasily Orlov, the Amur region's governor, said. "It will allow us to fully reach our transit potential."

Mutual wariness and Russian fears of expanding Chinese influence in its sparsely populated but mineral-rich far east have stymied such development in the past.

But Russia sought to step up ties with China after the West imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and the two countries' presidents are due to launch the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline on Monday, in a 30-year, $400bn deal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the "special relationship" between the two countries in October, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken of his strong working relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Construction of the bridge was undertaken by a Russo-Chinese company and involved building 20km (12.4 miles) of new roads.

Construction on the Chinese side was completed in October 2018, but the Russian side took longer to build and cost more - around 13.6 billion roubles ($220m) compared with 5.2 billion roubles ($83m) for the Chinese side.

The project includes a 1,080-metre (3,543-foot) span over the river.

Two Russian companies, TransContainer and the REGIONS Group of Companies, are investing in customs and logistics terminals on the border, with REGIONS planning to invest eight billion roubles ($130m) in the project.

The companies previously said their project would increase freight traffic across the bridge tenfold by 2030.

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