The contentious bridge linking Russia to Crimea has prompted yet another controversy, this one over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin's ceremonial first crossing actually came in second — to a cat.
Putin proudly drove a bright orange, Russian-built truck across the Kerch Strait Bridge Tuesday, leading a phalanx of heavy equipment vehicles and announcing that an engineering "miracle has come true."
In fact, the engineering could be suspect and an angry Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko says Russia had no business building the bridge in the first place.
Russia boldly annexed Crimea in 2014 to the chagrin of Ukraine, which still claims the disputed peninsula. The 12-mile-long bridge, the longest in Europe, also has drawn the ire of the U.S. State Department, which condemned its opening as "a reminder of Russia's ongoing willingness to flout international law."
The statement noted that the U.S. sanctions against companies involved in the project will remain in place "until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine."
Then there is the matter of the Mostik the cat. An Instagram star with 35,000 followers, Mostik posted a photo of himself, or herself, proudly strutting across the bridge, one day before Putin's much-ballyhooed journey.
"The first to run the 19 km. All is ready!," Mostik posted. 'I will open the bridge along with the builders and the president. And from 16 May you can drive it yourself.'
Previous posts show Mostik hanging with the bridge workers. In December, Russia's Sputnik news agency described Mostik as the honorary "chief supervisor" and unofficial mascot of the construction project.
Putin called the bridge, which opened for public traffic Wednesday, a "unique structure." Engineer Georgy Rosnovsky, who has designed other bridges, told NPR back in 2016 that while the bridge is badly needed, it was being built in the wrong place and the wrong way.
The design makes it vulnerable to earthquakes and mud volcanoes on the sea floor, Rosnovsky said.
Good bridge, bad bridge, Ukraine was not happy. The foreign ministry issued a statement this week condemning its completion.
"The construction of the bridge, like any other actions of the Kremlin's occupying authorities, in no way can change the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as an integral part of the territory of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders," the statement said. "The Russian Federation, as an occupying state, is fully responsible for the consequences of its internationally wrongful acts and will reimburse the harm caused."