NewsChinese firms secretly pushing Russia-Crimea and Helsinki-Tallinn tunnels, risking global ramifications

Chinese firms secretly pushing Russia-Crimea and Helsinki-Tallinn tunnels, risking global ramifications

The Crimean Peninsula is the place from which Russian attacks on Ukrainian troops and civilians are conducted. (illustrative photo)
The Crimean Peninsula is the place from which Russian attacks on Ukrainian troops and civilians are conducted. (illustrative photo)
Images source: © GETTY | NurPhoto
4:52 PM EST, December 17, 2023

"The Washington Post" revealed that Chinese companies are orchestrating the creation of a tunnel from the Kremlin-controlled Crimean Peninsula to Russia. This project is being considered amid Ukrainian assaults on various targets in Russia and Crimea, which are Kyiv's retaliation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ongoing since February 2022.

The newspaper indicated that the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), a Chinese state-owned company specializing in railway construction, was given the project. As per email correspondence obtained by "The Washington Post," the company requested its involvement in the project to be kept secret. It is speculated that the company fears penalties that may be imposed about its support for Russia's Ukraine invasion.

The Crimean Peninsula serves as a location from where Russian attacks on Ukrainian military and civilians are launched. Additionally, the occupiers leverage Crimea's ports to impede the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural commodities.

Both CRCC and China Railway Engineer Corporation (CREC), affiliated with the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project, operate under the aegis of SASAC — the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

SASAC assumes the power to appoint corporate executives and has sweeping rights to influence decision-making within these entities.

Peter Vesterbacka, a Finnish entrepreneur overseeing the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel's construction, stated in an interview with public broadcaster Yle, that the involvement of a Chinese entity tasked with the railway construction poses no issue. He underscored that decisions are made by him alongside his Finnish associates, and "Chinese actions regarding Russian aggression in Ukraine bear no influence on the tunnel beneath the Gulf of Finland."

The 62-mile tunnel project

The approximately 62-mile long tunnel project is directed by the FinEst Bay Area Development company, co-founded by Peter Vesterbacka, best known as the creator of Angry Birds. The company estimates that the tunnel's construction will cost between 15 and 20 billion euros.

Upon completion, the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel will earn the accolade of the longest underwater railway tunnel globally, almost double the length of the one below the English Channel.

The tunnel is intended to incorporate Finland into the standard European railway network, a feat achieved by the Baltic countries courtesy of the Rail Baltica project. 85% funded by EU grants, Rail Baltica involves constructing a roughly 541-mile long railway line with a track gauge of 1435 mm, linking Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania with Poland, and thus with the broader European railway network. Currently, the prevalent track gauge in the Baltic countries, Russia, and Finland is 1520mm and 1524mm, respectively.

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