Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a US$1 billion bridge to a remote Far East island on Monday.
"We must fully realize the Far East's potential, integrate this territory into the national economic space," Medvedev said in a meeting with regional officials, after inaugurating the bridge.
The 3.1-km (1.9-mile) bridge links the port city of Vladivostok to Russky Island, a barren former military base where Russia is to host the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on September 1.
The bridge, conceived in the golden days of Russia's oil bonanza before the 2008 economic crisis, has come in for harsh criticism from anti-Kremlin opposition who dubbed it "a bridge to nowhere" and said the cost was too high.
"I am sure that this bridge will serve many people - those who live in Vladivostok, on Russky Island, those who will come to visit, tourists from our country, as well as from other places," a defiant Medvedev said at the launch ceremony.
Medvedev, accompanied by other government officials, drove across the bridge in a van but the public will not be able to use it before August. Until then the bridge will be open only to trucks heading to construction sites on the island.