Update: the Ukraine dam crisis
The scandal concerning the construction of a Russian dam on the Kerch Strait is becoming more absurd. There are only meters left for Russian constructors to reach the Ukraine state border. The controversy about the dam construction is very serious, although officials from both countries are making periodic attempts to play down the issue. At first, it was declared that Russia started construction of the dam to protect the Taman Peninsula; what is more, Russia conducted the works on its own territory and there was no reason for Ukraine to be concerned. However, Ukraine authorities immediately decided the construction works posed danger to the territorial integrity of their country. Parliamentarians were the first to sound the alarm as Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma hesitated with comments upon the situation. Finally, the Ukrainian president spoke in public in the city of Dnepropetrovsk and called Russia's actions unkindly. Leonid Kuchma reminded that Russia was the guarantor of Ukraine's territorial integrity as far as Ukraine was pressed to give up its nuclear weapons (that was said to be done not voluntarily). The Ukraine president was surprised with the construction of the dam and emphasized that the work had been initiated not by the local administration of the Krasnodar Region, but by Russia's central authorities.
The long period within which the Ukrainian president hesitated to comment upon the situation turned out to be bad for Leonid Kuchma. The opposition suspected that Kuchma and Putin (they met on the Biryuchy Island in September, before the CIS summit in Yalta) might have made a deal about the dam project.
But in this situation, what is good for Vladimir Putin is not to the advantage of Leonid Kuchma. Ukraine's weekly Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror of the Week) reports: "The actions of Leonid Kuchma during the crisis on the Kerch Strait are surprising. Under conditions when Ukrainian parliamentarians urge their Russian colleagues to be reasonable, frontier guards are strengthening the security of the island and diplomats are taking every effort to regulate the problem, the president of the country keeps himself aloof from solution of the problem." The weekly states that within the three weeks of the crisis the people of Ukraine have not seen any resolute actions from the president.
Meanwhile, the Kerch crisis is speedily developing. A correspondent of Ukraine's online edition MIGnews.com.ua attended a closed briefing for Ukrainian journalists in the Kremlin; he says that Russia is ready to drop a bomb upon the island of Tuzla where the Russian dam is being constructed. The online edition states that this opinion was voiced by the head of the RF Presidential Administration, Alexander Voloshin. MIGnews.com.ua quotes Alexander Voloshin as saying: "Russia will never leave the Kerch Strait to Ukraine. It is quite enough that Crimea today belongs to Ukraine; we have hardly managed to appease people on this issue. Enough to scoff at us! We will do everything possible to defend out positions. If necessary, we will drop a bomb upon the place!"
On Monday, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry sent a note to its Russian colleagues that stated Russia was responsible for any possible consequences surrounding the construction of the dam. The statement is explained with an alleged request for the Russian Foreign Ministry to present copies of documents and maps "according to which Ukraine claims the Island of Tuzla is actually Ukrainian territory." Until recently, Ukraine believed that nobody doubted the island was Ukraine's territory.
It seems that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is being flamed by some "unseen" script writers from both sides. It is hardly likely that it was just a slip of the tongue when Alexander Voloshin said about a bomb. This also applies to Ukrainian comments about defending the island.
Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma has left the country for a long tour of Latin America (Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Panama). With his depature, the leader of the Ukraine Communist Party Pyotr Simonenko commented that Leonid Kuchma was "a traitor and a deserter who has left Ukraine in a prewar period".