The Russian economy is in bad shape, to put it mildly:

One in six working Russians is unable to provide the bare minimum for their family, the Vedomosti business daily reported Tuesday, citing government data.

Living standards have dropped since the 2014 economic crisis in Russia, prompted by Western sanctions over Russia’s role in embattled Ukraine and falling oil prices.

This year, official data suggests that 22 million people earned less than the 10,000 rubles ($172) monthly living wage, a 2-million person uptick from 2016.

Government figures cited by Vedomosti say more than 12 million working Russians — 17 percent of the country’s labor force — earned less than they needed to support their families in 2016.

Even though two-thirds of the labor force works in the private sector, the state sector contains four times more working poor, Vedomosti reported.

Women and those without higher education make up most of Russia’s working poor, mostly found in the education, agriculture, and forestry sectors, according to researchers.

By contrast, young workers and those engaged in mineral extraction industries, finance, state management, and the military are considered wealthy.

Meanwhile, analysts estimated that up to 7 million Russians are unable to pay off their loans or declare bankruptcy because of the excessive costs of filing for bankruptcy itself.

One in Six Working Russians Can't Provide for Their Family

And Putin has an Election coming up next year too!

So, what does he need? Something huge and flashy, to distract everyone from all this economic crap.

Fortunately for him, he does have sonething quite big and flashy indeed:

The Kerch Bridge, which is to connect mainland Russia to re-annexed Crimea.

It will be one of the longest bridges in the world.

It is a national project on a truly titanic scale. Biggest construction undertaking in post-Soviet Russia, aside from, maybe, the Moskva-City Business Center skyscrapers in Moscow

But even notwithstanding the scale of the actual work; the scale of the hype around it all is even grander.

National TV and other media have covered and glorified the large groups of enthusiastic, bright-eyed young student volunteers, from all over the country, who head out to the Bridge in shift after shift, to help build the Motherland's greatest eternal monument

It is often compared to how the BAM railroad was built, in the Soviet Union:–Amur_Mainline

The builders of the Bridge are constantly hailed and glorified.

For example, the Moscow Metro subway system has released, last year, a limited, collectible series of fare cards, with photos and short stories of notable Muscovites participating in the project

This summer, in August, the famous GUM Mall on Red Square held a special exhibition about the Bridge ("Construction of the Century")

The Crimean city of Kerch, where the Bridge attaches on that side, and for which it is named, has opened a special viewing site overlooking the construction, with a beautiful bench that has already become popular for wedding photos

There are T-shirts being widely sold

(and baseball caps and all sorts of other merchandise)

In September, a countrywide contest was held to write a patriotic song about the Bridge, the winning song was performed by famous singer Oleg Gazmanov at the New Wave festival in Crimea

while all the finalists received a free trip to Crimea, including a guided tour of the Bridge construction site

With all of this, Putin can no longer politically afford to ever back out of this project, however much it costs. The population is too galvanized by it. They would be enraged. He is now trapped in this.

Fortunately, it is going well, progressing fast, ahead of schedule too.

But, the costs are enormous, not only for the construction itself (as well as all this PR lol), but also security. Radical groups in Ukraine have threatened to sabotage the bridge and, in light of other events ("Sabotage" in Crimea), thus has to be taken seriously.

There are Navy special forces protecting the Bridge
including combat divers and, recently, armed underwater drones have also been deployed

While the FSB's Coast Guard also patrols the waters there
and their legendary elite Unit Alpha also has members there

Billions and billions of dollars going into this thing... Billions that could have instead paid for new schools and hospitals and bigger pensions for the elderly... Instead, sunk into a giant bridge... Oh, well...

I bet these local fishermen checking their nets out there

are truly grateful, at least. For them, the Bridge actually means more food for their families: reportedly, underwater vibrations caused by the construction have attracted much more fish into the area hehe

Many Crimeans also hope for more tourists from the mainland, after the Bridge opens, since it will make travel to Crimea much easier and cheaper. Inflow of tourists is indeed expected to go way up by most experts.

I hope it all goes well fir all of them. Still can't help thinking of all the wonderful things all this money could have been better spent on...