Deterioration of Russia-Ukraine relations started by no means today. 10 years ago Russia almost intruded into Ukraine’s territorial waters by means of dam construction. In such a way they took the position of official Kyiv through its paces and solved the problem of passing of the nationalist “Rodina” party to the State Duma.
Having become the president of Russia in 2000, Vladimir Putin didn’t start trying to dictate his will to the former Soviet republics right away. Vladimir Vladimirovich established order in the Russian political elite, removing those who could hinder him, and then started actively feeling nostalgic for the lost Soviet Union.
In the fall of 2003 nostalgia gained its material forms: dozens of dump trucks started bringing stones and sand in the round-the-clock mode, creating an artificial dam in the direction to the island of the Tuzla Spit. This scrap of land belonging to Ukraine can be called a strategic point in the Sea of Azov. Building a dam, Russia was trying “to restore a natural succession of events”, but it worked out not very convincingly. Construction works were accompanied by nationalist statements of Russian politicians. There can be no doubts: if Ukraine didn’t stand up to the actions of Russia at Tuzla, the question of “returning” the Crimea under the Russian sovereignty or, at least, strengthening of the Russian military presence there would be the following issue on the agenda of the bilateral relations.
The president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma had to interrupt the state visit to Brazil, the frontier post was quickly created on the island of Tuzla, and military divisions in the adjacent areas were put on advanced alert. Ukrainian force structures were ready to various scenarios of development of events. After the negotiations between presidents of Russia and Ukraine the problem came to nothing, and the construction of the dam stopped 100 meters away from the line of the state frontier of Ukraine. Last year Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin agreed on delimitation and demarcation of the border in the Sea of Azov, but so far these arrangements haven’t been realized.
10 years ago political scientists in Kyiv and Moscow were inclined to think that actions of the Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev on the dam construction towards Tuzla were authorized by the Kremlin to the greatest possible extent. After running from communists to the “United Russia” party, the politician was working on the task of getting the “Rodina” party, known for its nationalist and xenophobic attacks, into the State Duma on the eve of elections. It’s interesting that the leaders of “Rodina” found worthy places in Vladimir Putin’s environment. Sergey Glazyev as the adviser to the president convinces Ukraine not to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, and Dmitriy Rogozin (the Deputy Prime Minister who oversees the military-industrial complex) claims that the Ukrainian aviation industry will disappear without cooperation with Russia.
It is indicative that the “heroes of Tuzla” – Tkachev, Rogozin, Glazyev – play by no means the last roles in the Russian politics. Their participation in forming and making decisions helps to better understand the essence of Vladimir Putin’s actions directed at the establishment of Russia’s hegemony on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is consistently trying to stand against it and hopes for support and understanding of its European partners. In this context the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU acquires special significance.