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    KHABAROVSK, February 26, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Yelena Glushakova) - President Vladimir Putin arrived in Khabarovsk to attend the opening of the Chita-Khabarovsk highway.

    Before Mr. Putin cut a Russian flag colored ribbon, he familiarized himself with the technical characteristics of the road.

    This highway is the first part of the Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Vladivostok transport corridor, which will be completed by 2008.

    The federal highway between Chita and Khabarovsk will connect the western regions of Russia with the Far East and is of great social, economic, strategic and defense significance.

    The highway passes through the Chita and Amur Regions and the Jewish Autonomous Region. The road begins on the eastern border of Chita and ends on the bank of the Amur River.

    Several roads intersect this east-west highway. The roads that lead north go to Yakutia, the western districts of the Magadan Region and Chukotka. The roads that lead south go to Blagoveshchensk, Zabaikalsk and other towns and checkpoints on Chinese border, as well as to Pacific ports in the Khabarovsk and Maritime Territories.

    The decision to construct the Chita-Khabarovsk highway was taken by the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union nearly forty years ago in 1966.

    By 1995, 605 kilometers of the planned 2,165 kilometer highway had been built near Chita, Blagoveshchensk and Khabarovsk.

    After the government of the Russian Federation adopted a new resolution on speeding up the construction of the highway in May 1995, another 389 kilometers were built.

    But even this (total of 994 kilometers) did not radically improve the situation, as another 525 kilometers, 327 of which were across the taiga, had to be built.

    In June 2001, the task was set to complete the project as soon as possible. In September 2001, the Russian Transport Ministry paid off its credit debt to contract organizations.

    The Russian road building organization allocated 26 percent of its budget for the construction of this highway.

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