Vladimir Putin Beaten by a Cat as First to Cross $4 Billion Crimea Bridge

Russian President Vladimir Putin looked set to be the first to cross the controversial multibillion bridge linking Russia to Crimea—but a cat seems to have beaten him to it.
Putin drove across the newly built bridge to Crimea—a territory Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014—to officially open its road lanes for car traffic. His truck led about a dozen others from Russia’s Krasnodar region to Crimea, as TV cameras showed Putin to be the first to make the 12-mile trip, as he inspected the construction that will continue until next year.
But a local feline gave his seal of approval a full day before the Russian leader, after apparently making the journey by foot.
“First to run the 19 kilometers [12 miles]. Everything is ready!” Mostik the cat, a mascot for the bridge builders, posted on Instagram on Monday. “Tomorrow I am ceremonially opening the bridge with the builders and the president. And starting May 16th you can come yourselves.”
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Mostik, named after the Russian diminutive word for bridge, has served as a mascot for builders on the Russian side of the bridge in Krasnodar since 2015, when the project’s press desk began posting photos on his behalf. Images of Mostik napping on construction equipment, playing on the beach and exploring the site have received thousands of shares in Russia. Builders have even given Mostik a small hard hat for his appearances on Russia’s main TV channels. Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a cat while inspecting the reconstruction of houses for people who suffered from wildfires in the village of Krasnopol, in the Siberian Khakassia region, in Russia, on September 4, 2015. A cat is now claiming to have crossed Russia’s bridge to Crimea before Putin. Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters
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The cat has become the cuddly symbol of an otherwise deeply controversial project embodying Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Putin painted the opening as a “historic” triumph, decades in the making.