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Russia Awards Crimean Bridge Contract to Putin Ally's Company

FILE - Forbes Magazine has said Russian businessman Arkady Rotenberg has a personal fortune of $1.8 billion.

A company whose main owner is a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been awarded a contract to build a bridge linking mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula.

A government order published Friday said Stroygazmontazh Corporation, whose majority owner is billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, was awarded the contract.

Reports out of Russia said the project's estimated cost was $3 billion and that it must be completed by 2018.

Rotenberg has known the Russian leader since childhood, and the two have been judo partners in the past. The Associated Press said Rotenberg, 63, received the contract without the public tenders that are typically mandatory for government-commissioned projects in Russia.

Rotenberg is under Western sanctions because of Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine following a controversial referendum on March 16 of last year.

The U.S. Treasury Department, in announcing sanctions against Russian officials and the leadership's inner circle, said the businessman and his brother, Boris, have provided support to Putin's pet projects by receiving and executing high-price contracts for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and state-controlled energy giant Gazprom.

The statement said the brothers have made billions in contracts for the Games and Gazprom and have amassed enormous wealth during Putin's rule.

The European Union also has sanctioned Rotenberg.

Forbes Magazine described Arkady Rotenberg as one of Russia's most influential businessmen whose source of wealth was construction, pipes and banking. Forbes said he was worth $1.8 billion.

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