Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to boost Russian morale by driving across a bridge to Crimea that a truck bomb damaged in October.
He took the wheel of a Mercedes to drive across the bridge linking Russia’s mainland with the peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Like other western car makers, Mercedes halted sales of vehicles to Russia and stopped production at its assembly factory near Moscow after the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin did not try to make a political point by driving the Mercedes and not a Russian-made Auris sedan, saying the president just used an available car.
While driving, Mr Putin discussed the repairs of the Crimean Bridge with Marat Khusnullin, a deputy prime minister in charge of the project, an exchange broadcast by Russian television.
The president also spoke to workers involved in restoring the 12-mile bridge, which has been the main conduit for ferrying supplies to Crimea, which has served as a key base for Russian military operations in Ukraine.
In view of Ukrainian threats to launch new attacks on the bridge, Mr Putin emphasised the need to build a motorway along the Sea of Azov coast to link Crimea with regions in southern Russia, the Kremlin said.
The truck bomb attack on October 8 disrupted travel on one of the two lanes of the bridge.
Russia blamed the attack on Ukrainian military intelligence and responded with several waves of strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities and other key infrastructure.