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Russia plans to build underwater tunnel to Crimea, negotiates with China

Russia plans to build underwater tunnel to Crimea, negotiates with China Russia wants to build an underwater tunnel to Crimea, negotiates with China (Photo: Getty Images)

After multiple strikes by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the Crimean Bridge, Russians are seeking alternative access routes to the occupied Crimea. Russian and Chinese businessmen linked to the government are discussing the construction of an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to the peninsula, according to The Washington Post.

The agency reported that the negotiations at the end of October were provoked by Russia's growing concern about the security of the illegally constructed bridge across the Kerch Strait. It is a crucial logistical line for the Russian army but has been attacked twice by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and remains a vulnerable target.

The negotiations underscore Russia's determination to maintain control over Crimea, which it illegally annexed in 2014, and the increasing dependence of Moscow on China as a source of global support.

According to U.S. officials and engineers, implementing such an idea would be challenging. Billions of dollars would need to be spent on construction, which would take years. Moreover, such work has never been carried out in a conflict zone.

Despite doubts about the plan's feasibility, experts say Russia has clear reasons to pursue it.

"Having failed to achieve a decisive victory in the war, Russia "faces [the] risk that Ukraine," noted Alexander Gabuev, an expert on Moscow-Beijing relations.

Analysts point out that it is unlikely that the Kerch tunnel will be completed in time to assist Russia in its military efforts. Moscow may view it as a long-term investment to ensure secure communication with a territory that could be contested for decades.

The project also poses political and financial risks for China, which has never officially recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea and whose companies could fall into the trap of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU on the aggressor country.

Despite this, intercepted emails indicate that one of China's largest construction companies expressed readiness to participate. These emails were provided to The Washington Post by Ukrainian officials.

One of the messages states that the Chinese Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) is "ready to ensure the construction of railway and road construction projects of any complexity in the Crimean region."

Previously, the corporation has collaborated with Russia on multiple occasions, including assisting in expanding metro lines in Moscow.

Strikes on the Crimean Bridge

Recall that the illegally constructed Crimean Bridge, built by occupiers, has been struck more than once.

In October 2022, powerful explosions occurred on the bridge, causing significant damage. The head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), Vasil Maliuk, confirmed that it was an operation by his special service.

Additionally, in July 2023, another attack on the Crimean Bridge resulted in the destruction of two spans. The head of the SSU, Vasyl Maliuk, also confirmed the involvement of the special service in this attack and stated that it was organized using Sea Baby drones.