Secret discussions have been held between Russia and China executives with plans to build an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to Crimea, it has been claimed.
It has been triggered by mounting Russian concerns over the security of an 11-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait.
According to communications intercepted by Ukraine’s security services, talks took place between Russian and Chinese business executives
The parties reportedly want to establish a transportation route that would be protected from Ukrainian attack.
The bridge has been crucial to Russia’s operations
The 11-mile bridge across the Kerch Strait that has served as a key logistics line for the Russian military but has been bombed twice by Ukraine and remains a vulnerable war target.
It comes as Russia aims to tighten its grip on Crimea, a peninsula that it annexed illegally in 2014.
According to US officials and engineering experts, constructing a tunnel near the existing bridge would face enormous obstacles, including costs and difficulties amid working in an active war zone.
Despite questions about the viability of the plan, experts said Russia has clear reasons for pursuing it.
The bridge has been targeted
Expert on Moscow-Beijing relations at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre Alexander Gabuev said Russia “faces [the] risk that Ukraine will try to disrupt the Kerch bridge for many years to come”.
Intercepted emails indicate that one of China’s largest construction companies has signalled its willingness to participate.
This is despite the fact that the project would also pose political and financial risks for China, which has never officially recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Emails circulated among Russian-Chinese consortium officials in recent weeks mention meetings with Chinese delegates in Crimea.
One email describes the Chinese Railway Construction Corporation, CRCC, as “ready to ensure the construction of railway and road construction projects of any complexity in the Crimean region.”
CRCC, a state-owned company, built many of the largest road and rail networks in China.
The company did not respond to requests for comment.
A senior executive at the Russian-Chinese Consortium refused to answer questions about the tunnel project.
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