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Russian, Ukrainian Leaders Hail Border Accord

Putin (left) and Kuchma (far right) shown during a previous meeting 23 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma today exchanged ratification documents on agreements that partially settle a border dispute and herald the countries' entrance into a Single Economic Space.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the meeting in Ukraine's Black Sea resort town of Yalta was one of the most important in the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

"The situation in Ukraine wasn't so easy. It became particularly tense before the ratification of the agreement on the Single Economic Space," Kuchma said. "But the fact that our parliament did ratify this agreement proves that we will have no problems in this regard in the future and we will cooperate closely to resolve all the issues that may arise."

Putin called the agreements "balanced and mutually advantageous."

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a territorial dispute since last year over the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Putin and Kuchma signed an agreement that gives both countries equal usage of the Azov Sea and the strait, but leaves open for negotiation the question of mineral rights in the Sea of Azov region, which has proven natural-gas reserves.


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