By Gleb Stolyarov
MOSCOW (Reuters) – 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 River Amur will connect the cities of Blagoveshchensk in Russia’s Far East and Heihe in northeastern China and is intended to increase the volume of freight traffic and agricultural products between the two countries.
It is expected to open in spring 2020, Russia’s Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic said.
“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 it over its annexation of the Crimea 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, $400-billion deal. [nL2N27Z04S]
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 President Xi Jinping. [nL 5N26P1WL]
Construction of the bridge was undertaken by a Russo-Chinese company and involved building 20 km (12.5 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 ($213 million) compared to 5.2 billion roubles for the Chinese side.
The project includes a 1,080-metre span over the river.
Two Russian companies, the Region corporate group and Transcontainer, are investing in customs and logistics terminals on the border, with Region planning to invest 8 billion roubles in the project.
The companies previously said their project would increase freight traffic across the bridge tenfold by 2030.
(Reporting by Glev Stolyarov, Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)