Russia gives $3 billion Crimea bridge contract to Putin ally

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government has awarded the contract for the construction of a $3 billion bridge to Crimea to a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin.

In a decree published online Friday, the government said that a company owned by Arkady Rotenberg would be given the commission to build a bridge linking Crimea — the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in March — to mainland Russia.

Costs for the automobile and railroad bridge cannot exceed 212 billion rubles ($3 billion) and it must be completed by December 2018. The government decree does not give any specifics about the design of the bridge or exactly where it will cross the 5-kilometer (3-mile) -wide Kerch Strait, both of which would greatly influence cost.

The contract was given to Rotenberg without the public tenders that are typically mandatory for government-commissioned projects in Russia.

Rotenberg, a childhood friend and longtime judo partner of Putin's, is on the European Union and U.S. sanctions lists.

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