Construction of a railway connecting illegally annexed Crimea and Russia’s Rostov-on-Don has begun and will pass through occupied territories in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzia and Donetsk regions, local officials said.

Yevgeny Balytskyi, the occupation governor of the Zaporizhzia region, said that construction has started in the Donetsk region, TCH reported.

He said the railway would connect the occupied village of Yakymivka in the Zaporizhzhia region with Rostov-on-Don, passing through the occupied port cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol. 

The railway would be used for military logistics as well as raw material exports, he said.

Yakymivka, located 26 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of Melitopol, was chosen due to the “travel safety” that it offers, according to Balitsky.

An earlier Kyiv Post report explained the rationale behind Russia’s planned railway – namely the constant attacks on the Kerch bridge connecting Russia and occupied Crimea.

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Currently the Kremlin’s only route for rail shipments to forces operating in Ukraine’s south and east is via a vulnerable bridge crossing the Kerch Strait into the occupied Crimea peninsula after Ukraine destroyed a railway bridge near Mariupol.

TCH reported that an advisor to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushchenko confirmed the plans but said that only preparatory work is underway. 

“Maybe construction will start next year,” he said.

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However, Andryushchenko said that in the Donetsk region, Russia is likely rebuilding existing railways connecting Mariupol and Russia, which could be finished in the coming months.

“[...] they are already finishing the construction of a railway bridge across the river Kalmius and are trying to cut into the Mariupol-Volnovakha line [...] it is quite possible that in late November early December we will see the first diesel locomotives that will be able to drive from Rostov to Volnovakha or Mariupol,” he said.

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