Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Monday the country's first direct train to the annexed Crimea peninsula.
The launch opens railway service along a new $4 billion bridge linking continental Russia to the peninsula.
The train departed from the Moskovsky rail station in St. Petersburg at 2 p.m. Monday and is scheduled to arrive in Sevastapol, the largest city on the Crimean peninsula at 9:25 a.m. Wednesday, making the total journey last 43 hours and 25 minutes. It will pass the Crimean Bridge earlier Wednesday morning. Ticket prices are $56.
Putin took part in the departure ceremony Monday through video conference, wishing a "Safe Journey!"
On Monday, Putin also took a rail ride from the Crimean city of Kerch to Taman, in Russia's Krasnodar region.
He took part of a similar ceremony last year when the road section of the nearly 12-mile Crimean Bridge opened.
Putin boasted that the bridge would be an economic boon for the country, transporting 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo in 2020.
The bridge, "will impact the entire economy," he told a cheering crowd.
The first train from Moscow will depart to Simferopol, Crimea's capitol, Tuesday and is scheduled to take 33 hours.
Dozens of Western countries imposed economic sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 , and the Crimean Bridge has sparked new sanctions.