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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN DAM PROJECT IS 'UNFRIENDLY'... President Leonid Kuchma said on 17 October that the ongoing construction of a dam in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003) is an "unfriendly" action by Russia, Interfax reported. "A good neighbor does not behave in this way," Kuchma added. Simultaneously, he expressed his certainty that the builders of the dam will not violate Ukraine's border. Kuchma said he is skeptical about reports that the dam project was initiated by local authorities from Russia's Krasnodar Krai. "Judging by the speed [of the dam construction] and the costs involved, there is no doubt that this is an action of the central government," the Ukrainian president said. Kuchma is scheduled to leave on 20 October for an 11-day tour of Latin America. JM
...AS OTHERS WARN OF GRAVER CONSEQUENCES. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko told journalists on 18 October that the controversy around the Russian dam in the Kerch Strait might prevent the Verkhovna Rada from ratifying the accord on the Single Economic Space of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 September 2003), Interfax reported. "This is the most obvious idea, and it should be obvious for all, including our Russian partners," Hryshchenko added. "Possibly, it would be good for Ukraine to deploy its naval vessels where its territorial water begin and see how Russians reacts," Leonid Kravchuk, leader of the Social Democratic Party-united caucus in Verkhovna Rada and the first president of independent Ukraine, told journalists the same day. "If Russia continues to build a dam into our territorial waters, we will have to resort to force [to stop the construction]," Kravchuk added. Some 5,000 people gathered in Lviv on 19 October to protest the dam construction in the Kerch Strait. Demonstrators called the construction a "predatory" action on the part of Russia and appealed to the Ukrainian leadership to take immediate measures to defend Ukraine's territorial integrity. JM