Ukraine will not rush to demarcate its border with Russia in the Kerch Strait so as to avoid damaging Ukraine's national interests, the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's information policy department said on Thursday.

"We have not set any time to achieve results. The advocacy of [our] national interests is the key issue for us," Oleh Voloshyn told reporters in Kiev, RIA Novosti reported.

He said the Ukrainian side was ready to discuss "all economic issues" related to ship navigation in the Kerch Strait.

The border between the two states in the strait linking the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea has been a bone of contention between the two countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The agreement on the issue is crucial for the potential introduction of visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the European Union.

Russia and Ukraine signed a deal to define the border during President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Ukraine in May, sparking fierce criticism from Ukraine's opposition.

Ukraine unilaterally established a maritime border with Russia in the 1990s, saying it was based on the Soviet-era administrative border between the two republics. Russia has repeatedly denied the existence of Soviet administrative borders.

In the summer of 2003, a bitter dispute broke out between Russia and Ukraine over the Tuzla Island in the middle of the Kerch Strait, which came to a head when Russia tried to construct a spit connecting the island. Ukraine accused Russia of encroaching on its territory.

In December of that year, then Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma signed an agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. Under the agreement, the sea and the strait remain the territorial waters of both Russia and Ukraine.


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