Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 149

Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko told the press yesterday that Ukraine "will not make concessions of any sort on its territorial integrity" in response to claims from Romania or any other country. Udovenko said that Ukraine’s ambassador would be called home from Romania for consultations after the latest restatement of Bucharest’s territorial claims. Romanian foreign minister Teodor Melescanu had declared in parliament December 4 that his government would appeal to the International Court of Justice if Ukraine continues to refuse ceding Serpents’ Island to Romania. Melescanu also reiterated that Romania seeks Ukrainian admission, as part of a bilateral treaty, that northern Bukovina and southern Bessarabia–now parts of Ukraine–were unfairly seized by the USSR from Romania. Udovenko warned in his response that territorial demands "could lead to Europe to catastrophe," and recalled that the nuclear powers in 1994 specifically guaranteed Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity. (16)

Udovenko’s response, and particularly his reference to the nuclear guarantees, indicate that Kiev worries less about Romania’s claim per se than about its possible effect as a precedent for similar claims from Russia. Russian nationalist forces have in fact aired such claims vis-a-vis Ukraine, and the Russian government has thus far withheld the unambiguous recognition of existing borders that Ukraine wants included in the draft interstate treaty. But Romania is thus far the only country to officially formulate territorial claims to Ukraine. Bucharest feels that it has a stronger legal case on Serpents’ Island because its 1948 annexation by the USSR (from whom Ukraine inherited it) was not codified in an international treaty. The tiny Black Sea island is believed to lie in the center of an oil-rich area. Moreover, title to the island substantially increases the possessor country’s territorial waters and economic zone in the Black Sea.

Moscow Said to Reject International Conference on Caspian Sea.