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27 Nov, 2023 15:51

China rubbishes Western media Crimea claim

The Washington Post’s reporting on a secret Chinese-Russian tunnel project is “baseless,” Beijing has declared
China rubbishes Western media Crimea claim

Reports of a Chinese-Russian project to build a tunnel between Crimea and the Russian mainland are “baseless,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has said. Citing Ukrainian spies, the Washington Post claimed last week that executives from both countries have met to plan a tunnel.

According to the American newspaper, “Russian and Chinese business executives with government ties” have met on several occasions since early October to discuss the project, which would see an underwater tunnel constructed under the Kerch Strait. The strait is currently traversed by the 19-kilometer-long Crimean Bridge, which has been attacked multiple times by Ukrainian forces since last February.

Emails obtained by Ukraine’s security services and handed over by “Ukrainian officials hoping to expose the project and China’s potential involvement” reveal that Chinese Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) executives expressed their willingness to participate in the project, the Post claimed. In these emails, the executives allegedly discussed the establishment of shell companies to avoid Western sanctions.

Asked about the allegations on Monday, Wang said that he would “not comment on the baseless reports.” 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was equally dismissive, stating on Friday that the story “is not worth even commenting on.” Peskov added that it was not befitting of the Washington Post “to write such nonsense.” 

Aside from exposing Chinese businessmen and officials to US and EU sanctions, the project would expose construction teams to the risk of Ukrainian attacks. The Russian military regularly intercepts attempted drone and missile strikes on the Crimean Bridge, although Kiev’s forces have managed to hit the bridge’s parallel road and rail spans on two occasions, utilizing a truck bomb last October and naval drones this July. The attacks killed a total of seven civilians.

Moreover, an engineer told the Post that such a project would likely cost more than $5 billion, and would be a “high-risk operation” in an active conflict zone.

“It would be odd that either a consortium of major [People’s Republic of China] firms or the government would support such a project,” a US official involved in sanctions policy told the Post. “The project would seem like a pretty easy target for Ukrainians to destroy.” 

“There are no such plans,” Crimean regional head Sergey Aksenov wrote on Telegram on Friday, advising Western journalists not to “rush to trust Ukrainian sources, as well as the Ukrainian leadership, because, to put it mildly, there are serious doubts about their adequacy.”

“And, yes, an exclusive especially for Washington Post journalists: It’s not a tunnel that will be built, but a teleportation terminal,” he concluded.