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A copper smelting

Uzbekistan has for the first time sent a train loaded with copper to Europe via a new route bypassing Russia, State-owned Uzbekistan Railways said on Monday, as part of the Central Asian nation’s plan to maintain trade ties with the European Union.

The train will deliver 46 rail cars and 91 units of 20-foot containers of copper concentrate from the Almalyk Mining and Metallurgical Combine over 4,000 km (2,485 miles) to Bulgaria, it said in a statement.

The route, known as the Middle Corridor, crosses Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea with the aid of train ferries.

Brussels has promoted the Middle Corridor as an alternative to the traditional Northern route for the Europe-Asia railway shipments which crosses Russia.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said last month it was ready to invest billions of euros in the development of cargo routes between Europe and Asia that bypass Russia.