Ukraine and Moldova resolve brief dispute over territory of Dnister hydroelecric station

by Roman Woronowycz
Kyiv Press Bureau

KYIV - Almost two weeks after an international dispute began over the taking of a part of the territory of a Ukrainian-owned hydroelectric station by Moldovan border troops, Kyiv acknowledged that Moldovan officials had acted within their rights.

"We do not believe there was border trespassing" Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Oleksander Horkov said on July 29.

He explained that the frontier post constructed by Moldovan border guards "was established on Moldovan territory."

The Ukrainian side, however, continued to express its dismay that the problem surrounding the issue could not have been resolved diplomatically. Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Minister Anatolii Zlenko had said on July 26: "We respect the sovereign right of the Moldovan side to set up frontier posts on its territory: however, this must be done in line with the existing Ukrainian-Moldovan legal frameworks, including those regulating cross border cooperation."

On July 17, anywhere from two to 11 Moldovan border guards - the exact number is disputed by the two sides - erected a makeshift border check point after tearing off padlocks and entering the territory of a Ukrainian hydroelectric dam that stretches across the Dnister River at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. They then refused to allow workers of the Dnister Hydroelectric Station to enter the property.

The administration of the hydroelectric station complained to the Ukrainian government and issued a statement that it could no longer monitor water levels, which are crucial to generating a steady amount of electricity.

Dmytro Osoian, director of the Department of Border Troops of Moldova, responded after the matter became public the same day with a statement in which he defended the action by his department.

"The border post was established on Moldovan territory in strict relation to the Moldovan-Ukrainian treaty on delimitation and demarcation of the border," stated Mr. Osoian, who asserted that the agreement allowed checkpoints to be set at the center of dams and bridges when they are part of the border.

As diplomatic efforts began, helped by the coincidence that a joint Moldovan-Ukrainian border demarcation commission happened to be preparing to meet in the Moldovan town of Briceni on July 28-30, Ukraine's foreign affairs minister told the press that the matter did not need to be overblown because a quick diplomatic solution would be found.

Because the demarcation committee is still working on a final boundary between the two countries, initially the main problem in the matter of the hydroelectric dam was whether the station's territory was located fully on Ukrainian soil. At issue was whether the Moldovan border began at the banks of the Dnister River or at the middle point of the waterway.

The hydroelectric plant's administration claimed that an agreement between Moldova and Ukraine dated 1982, when the republics were within the Soviet Union, gave the land on the Moldovan side to the plant for unlimited use. The Moldovan side did not voice any disagreement with the claim that the energy generating water facility belonged to Ukraine. The territory of the hydroelectric plant consists of 15 hectares of land on both sides of the Dnister River.

After several discussions, the demarcation commission and Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Ministry, which sent representatives to the dam, both acknowledged that the land belonged to Moldova. Both also criticized the lack of either deliberation with Ukraine or a warning by the Moldovans before they acted.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, while on a visit to the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi on July 30, which is located near the site of the incident, emphasized the firmness of Ukraine's response to the incident.

"Ukraine responded to this issue unswervingly. This was a matter of principle," explained Mr. Yanukovych. "This is the property of our country and our nation."

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 3, 2003, No. 31, Vol. LXXI

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