MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has inspected construction work on a mammoth bridge intended to link the Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia.

Putin, who was in the Crimean city of Kerch Thursday, visited the construction site for the 19-kilometer (12-miles) bridge across the Kerch Strait set to open in December 2018

After annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, Russia has moved to improve the Black Sea peninsula’s transport and energy infrastructure. Those efforts have grown more urgent as the Ukrainian government last year barred all commercial transport from crossing into Crimea via a strip of Ukrainian land.

Russia has also laid undersea power cables to Crimea to end its reliance on Ukraine. Crimea last year experienced severe shortages after anti-Russia protesters in Ukraine blocked power supplies.