FOR AS LONG AS PRO-RUSSIAN SEPARATISTS have dominated politics in Crimea, observers have predicted that the protracted dispute between Kiev and Simferopol over the status of the coveted resort region would ultimately deteriorate into a bloody civil conflict. With its latest moves to resolve the argument by taking firm control of the Black Sea peninsula, however, Ukraine has dealt a severe blow to Crimean separatist aspirations. Capitalizing on Russia's messy embroilment in Chechnya and on Crimea's increasing weariness of its feuding leaders, Ukraine appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario in the struggle to maintain its fragile unity.

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