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    NO BARGAINING ON KERCH PENINSULA, SNAPS RUSSIAN VICE-PREMIER AS UKRAINIAN PRESS ALLEGES SALE TO RUSSIA

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    MOSCOW, JANUARY 19, 2004. /RIA NOVOSTI/ -- All newspapers based in Kerch, with token exceptions, carry allegations of Ukraine ceding the Kerch Peninsula to Russia, which will write off its gas import arrears in exchange. Victor Khristenko, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, flatly denies the information.

    "There is not even the slightest reason at all to discuss the matter in serious. Whatever bilateral disputes there were [over the Tuzla spit, which links the Russian and Ukrainian shores of the Kerch Strait, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov] have been settled for now.

    The Sea of Azov does not belong to international waters. It is a Russian and Ukrainian territory, and Russia and Ukraine do not want any third parties there," Mr. Khristenko said emphatically at a business lunch on the editorial premises of the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a Moscow-based official daily.

    "How active the Russian government intends to be in promoting Russian capital expansion to Ukraine?" one of the gathering asked him. The Vice-Premier was aphoristic in his reply: "Politicians vote with their hands, business people with their money. Business has long made its choice. Look at Ukrainian petroleum-processing industry-Russian companies have a lion's share in it, and both sides are happy about the arrangement."

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