Russian first deputy foreign minister Boris Pastukhov yesterday called for a Russian-Ukrainian condominium in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. Opening a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian subcommission on border issues, which is part of the bilateral intergovernmental commission cochaired by the prime ministers, Pastukhov submitted a draft legal status of an "indivisible" Azov Sea and a plan to create a bilateral "Azov Sea Council," which would inter alia police the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. (Interfax-Ukraine, May 6)
Ukraine calls for demarcating the Azov Sea into national sectors between the two sovereign states. The sea forms a salient into southern Ukraine, and Russian naval superiority would ensure Russian control under the guise of a condominium. The issue has been discussed for some time at lower levels. Moscow’s move yesterday to raise it at a higher level and to submit detailed proposals indicates a willingness to escalate the controversy and to continue holding up the long-overdue border treaty, which Ukraine is anxious to conclude. Moscow’s position on the Azov Sea parallels (in different local conditions) its insistence on a condominium in the Caspian Sea and similarly reflects a reluctance to recognize post-Soviet borders.
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