Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to boost morale in Russia by driving across a bridge to Crimea that was blown up by a truck bomb in October.
He drove a Mercedes across a bridge connecting mainland Russia to the peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Like other Western automakers, Mercedes halted car sales to Russia and halted production at its assembly plant near Moscow after Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine began.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was not trying to make a political point by driving a Mercedes instead of a Russian-made Auris sedan, saying the president simply used an available car.
While driving, Mr Putin discussed the restoration of the Crimean bridge with the deputy prime minister in charge of the project, Marat Kusnulin, in an exchange broadcast on Russian television.
The president also spoke with workers involved in repairing the 12-mile bridge, which has been a major conduit for supplies to Crimea, which has been a key base for Russian military operations in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Putin had stressed the need to build a highway along the Sea of Azov coast linking Crimea to southern Russia in light of Ukraine’s threats of new attacks on the bridge.
A truck bomb attack on October 8 disrupted traffic on one of the bridge’s two lanes.
Russia blamed Ukrainian military intelligence for the attack and responded with waves of strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities and other critical infrastructure.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that the widespread strikes targeting electricity, telecommunications and water infrastructure were aimed at undercutting Ukraine’s military potential and disrupting Western arms shipments.
Ukrainian authorities said another such attack took place on Monday, hours after Russian media reported two explosions at a Russian air base.
One of them reportedly took place at a base hosting nuclear-capable strategic bombers that were involved in the attack on Ukraine.