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    PUTIN, KUCHMA EXCHANGE CREDENTIALS ON RATIFICATION OF TWO ACCORDS

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    YALTA (Ukraine), April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma have taken part in the ceremony of exchanging credentials on the ratification of two crucial Russian-Ukrainian agreements.

    At issue is the Russian-Ukrainian accord on cooperation in using the Azov-Kerch water area and the agreement on the state border.

    Protocols on the ratification of the credentials have been signed by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin and Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Alexander Motsak.

    The Russian State Duma and the Ukrainian Supreme Rada ratified both documents on the same day - April 20. On April 22, the agreements were ratified by the Russian upper house - the Federation Council.

    The agreement on cooperation in the use of the Azov and Kerch water area was signed by the two heads of state in Kerch on December 24, 2003.

    According to the document, the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait are Russia's and Ukraine's internal waters. Azov is divided by the state border line, and the Kerch Strait is used in line with the sides' agreement.

    The document also introduces free navigation in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait for merchant ships and warships of both countries. Merchant ships of other countries can only be in the water area if they are heading for or returning from a Ukrainian or a Russian port.

    The agreement bans third countries from entering the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait without an official consent from Ukraine and Russia.

    Besides, the agreement provides that all the issues related to the water area be settled by Russian-Ukrainian agreements, not unilaterally.

    The presidents signed the Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the countries' border on January 28, 2003.

    It establishes land borders between the two countries and envisages that issues of adjoining sea areas be settled by separate agreements.

    In particular, the agreement points out that the border between the two countries remains unchanged regardless of any natural changes in the area.

    The document emphasizes that the agreement does not damage the interests of Russia and Ukraine regarding the status of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait as being the two countries' internal waters.

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