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Ironduke
23 Oct 03,, 04:07
Russia PM eases Ukraine crisis

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has called for the suspension for several days of work on a causeway near the sea border with Ukraine, the building of which has caused tension between the two countries.
Mr Kasyanov's spokeswoman Tatyana Razbash said she did not know whether the local authorities in the southern Krasnodar territory had complied with the request.

The dispute has been escalating in recent days, and earlier on Wednesday Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma cut short a foreign trip to address the crisis.

Kiev is angry that Russia is building the causeway towards a Ukrainian island near the Black Sea.

Russia has also asked for proof that the island, Tuzla, is legally part of Ukraine.

Russia says the causeway is essential to protect part of its territory from coastal erosion.

Ukrainian officials said the causeway had already got to within hundreds of metres of Ukrainian territorial waters.

The dispute threatens to derail the new common market agreement the two countries have concluded with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

'Growing tensions'

Mr Kuchma announced in Brazil that the rest of his state visit to Latin American was being abandoned.

"In connection with growing tensions around Tuzla island, President Leonid Kuchma decided to cut his state visit to Latin American countries," said a statement from the presidential press service.

Officials in Moscow say the issue will be discussed in a meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers on 30 October.

The causeway, which was begun on 19 September, is expected to reach Ukrainian territorial waters by 26 October.

It is being built in the Kerch Strait, which separates Ukraine's Crimea region from the Taman peninsula and runs between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.

But Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Markian Lubkivsky said on Tuesday that Kiev would never allow it to be finished.

Territorial claims

Ukraine has put its border guards on alert, laid tank traps on the island and held air and sea exercises nearby.

Correspondents say Ukraine is worried that Russia will try to claim more territory ahead of the talks.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the causeway was being built purely for economic and environmental reasons. "There are no reasons to fan passions," he said.

Some Russian officials have cast doubt on Ukraine's claim to Tuzla.

The chairman of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, Dmitry Rogozin, said Ukraine had drawn an arbitrary border line on the waters between Tuzla and the Taman peninsula in an attempt to push Russia out of the Kerch Strait.

The parliaments of both countries were discussing the issue on Wednesday.

The growing row has sparked an angry response in Ukrainian newspapers, with some accusing Russia of still seeing Ukraine as an "economic colony" within its empire, or of trying trying gain free sea passage rights.

"Only when the neighbour has blatantly extended its hand to grab (Tuzla) have we realized how dear our motherland is to us," said Moloda newspaper.

Russian papers also saw the situation as very serious.

"In the next few days the Ukrainian-Russian dispute in the Kerch Strait could escalate into an armed conflict. And this is not an exaggeration," says Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3204117.stm

Ironduke
25 Oct 03,, 01:03
Russia and Ukraine defuse row

Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement to defuse a tense stand-off over Russia's construction of a causeway near their sea border.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced the measures after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukraine said it would withdraw border guards "immediately" from Tuzla Island, in the disputed Kerch Strait, Mr Kasyanov said, while Russia would suspend work on the causeway.

An agreement on the status of the strait, and the Azov Sea which it separates from the Black Sea, will be drawn up in two or three months.

Mr Kasyanov said that a joint working group would be set up to examine the need for the causeway

But he described Ukraine's deployment of border troops as "an unjustified show of force".

"There are no borders there, so troops should not flex their muscles there. We have agreed on that," he said.

"The [Ukrainian] military must leave this strip of land immediately."

The Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution on Thursday describing Russia's actions in building the causeway as an "unfriendly act".

The Russian causeway stretches from the mainland towards Tuzla and is currently about 100 metres from what Kiev considers to be Ukraine's border.

Russia suspended work there on Thursday during a visit to Tuzla by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma but later said it was carrying out some work to widen and reinforce the causeway.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3210867.stm