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kray (region), southwestern Russia, extending northward from the crest line of the Caucasus Mountains across the plains east of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov as far as the Gulf of Taganrog. The plains, crossed by the Kuban and other rivers flowing to the Sea of Azov, form two-thirds of the region. Their steppe-grass vegetation on rich soils has been almost entirely plowed under. Widespread salt marshes and lagoons line the Azov coast. The southern third of the region is occupied by the western Caucasus, which reach 12,434 feet (3,790 metres) at Mount Psysh (in the neighbouring Karachay-Cherkessia republic) and fall gradually in height westward as they run parallel to the Black Sea, from which they are separated by a narrow coastal plain. The mountains' lower slopes are covered by deciduous forest; higher up are conifers and alpine meadows.