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Media reports on China's intention to build underwater tunnel from Crimea to Russia. Chinese Foreign Ministry responds

27 November, 2023 Monday
16:03

Russian and Chinese businessmen with ties to the government have held secret talks on the construction of an underwater tunnel connecting Russia to the temporarily occupied Crimea

The Washington Post writes about this with reference to intercepted emails provided to the publication by unnamed Ukrainian security services.

It is noted that the talks took place in late October. They were triggered by Russia's growing concern about the security of the Crimean bridge, which serves as a key logistics line for the Russian military.

“The negotiations underscore Russia’s determination to maintain its grip on Crimea, a peninsula that it annexed illegally in 2014, as well as Moscow’s growing dependence on China as a source of global support,” journalists believe.

According to US officials and engineering experts, the construction of the underwater tunnel next to the bridge will face enormous technical obstacles. The project would also pose political and financial risks for China, which has never officially recognized the annexation of Crimea and whose companies could be trapped by economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Moscow.

"Nevertheless, intercepted emails indicate that one of China’s largest construction companies has signaled its willingness to participate," the newspaper writes, adding that one of the documents dated October 4 states that the China Railway Construction Corporation CRCC is "ready to ensure the construction of railway and road construction projects of any complexity in the Crimea region."

"Given the risks of sanctions and sabotage, US officials and experts expressed surprise that CRCC would risk intervening," The Washington Post writes.

Russia's reaction

The Kremlin refused to comment on the construction of a tunnel under the Kerch Strait.

"It's not even worth commenting on," said Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The occupying head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, called the article about plans to build a tunnel a lie. He added that an underground tunnel was one of the options for crossing the Kerch Strait, but the Russian authorities ultimately settled on building a bridge.

The West's reaction

Newsweek believes that an underwater tunnel from Crimea to Russia will not solve Putin's problems, Krym.Realii says. 

"The underwater tunnel through the Kerch Strait will be vulnerable throughout the construction process, as well as after its completion," former US Army Commander in Europe Ben Hodges said in a comment to the publication. The general added that it will not be easy for Russia to build this structure.

"There are real engineering problems associated with this idea... The bottom of the Black or Azov Sea in this area is not very suitable even for the Kerch Bridge, so seismic activity will be a real problem for the tunnel," the US military officer explained.

The tunnel itself will remain a problem for Russia, said Keir Giles, senior adviser to the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.

"If it is indeed built, it will be a safer means of travel to and from annexed Crimea, but it will still be a narrow passage and as long as there is hostilities going on, anyone going through this hypothetical tunnel will be nervous," Giles said.

What China says


At a briefing on November 27, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, answering a question from Ukrinform about alleged plans to build an underwater tunnel to Crimea with Russia, said: "This report has no basis, I will not comment on it.”

  • On November 24, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an alleged massive attack on Crimea and the Volgograd region. Russian air defense allegedly destroyed 16 drones. Instead, Ukrainian guerrillas say that they hit a Russian military unit.
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