In September 2003, back in the days when Kremlin press releases still referred to Ukraine as “Russia’s closest ally,” the presidents of the two countries, Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Putin, met on Byriuchyi Island. Over a two-hour meeting, the two men shared lunch and a walk on the beach. It was a chance for an informal chat under blue skies.
The duo discussed a number of issues around the sovereignty of islands in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait — at the time the Kyiv government was unnerved by Russian engineering work in the Kerch Strait which seemed designed to link the Russian Taman Peninsula with Tuzla Island, located in Ukrainian waters in the strait.
It is not clear the Byriuchyi meeting helped defuse the issue.