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    PUTIN SUBMITS AZOV-KERCH TREATY TO STATE DUMA FOR RATIFICATION

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    MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin submitted the "Treaty between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait" to the State Duma (the Lower House of the Russian Parliament) for ratification, Mr. Putin's the press service reported. The treaty was signed on December 24, 2003 in Kerch.

    The treaty creates the basis for Russia and Ukraine to develop mutually acceptable documents on all aspects of the legal status of the Azov-Kerch water area and joint activity in it.

    The treaty strictly fixes a number of provisions that are of principled importance to Russia. It preserves the historical status of the internal waters of the two countries. The treaty requires countries to receive permission from Russia and Ukraine before warships can enter either the Sea of Azov or the Kerch Strait. The treaty also recognizes that the water area needs to be preserved as an integral economic and natural complex so that it can be used in the interests of Russia and Ukraine. It also grants Russian and Ukrainian merchant ships freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

    The treaty also requires that all questions concerning the water area be settled on the basis of an agreement between the sides. This provision limits the possibility of unilateral Ukrainian actions, including actions on establishing the border.

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