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Ukraine: Kuchma Visits Island At Center Of Dam Dispute

Kerch, Ukraine; 23 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (pictured) today is visiting an island at the center of an escalating dispute with Russia. Kuchma cut short a tour of Latin America to deal with the disagreement over a dam Russia is building near Tuzla, a small island off Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Russia says the dam in a narrow channel connecting the Azov Sea and the Black Sea is needed to prevent erosion in Russian territory. Ukraine says Russia began building the dam without permission and the barrier will cause ecological damage in Ukraine and could infringe on its territory.

Ukrainian officials say Kuchma is visiting Tuzla to get acquainted with the situation.

His visit comes one day before Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich are due to meet in Moscow to discuss the dispute.