BRUSSELS : The EU on Friday sharply criticized the opening of a rail link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula, calling it ''another violation of of Ukraine's sovereignty''

The statement was issued hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin rode in the driver's cabin of a train marking the inauguration of the route starting from the city of Kerch in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed five years ago.

The rail-link passes over 19-kilometre long bridge that was built by a company owned by a billionaire businessman ally of Putin's.

Ukraine's government and Western countries view Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal.

Ukrainian forces continue to battle Russia-backed fighters in the east in a lingering separatist conflict that has claimed 13,000 lives since 2014.

the statement from the EU underlined that the railway on Kerch bridge was built ''without Ukraine's consent'' and was ''yet another step towards a forced integration of the illegally annexed peninsula. [AFP]


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