GAZPROM’S TRIUMPH

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RUSSIA RESUMES GAS DELIVERIES TO EUROPE

Gas deliveries to the European Union via Ukraine are about to be resumed.


Unless anything untoward occurs and provided Ukrainian gas pipelines survived the cold while idle, gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine will be resumed this morning, Alexander Medvedev of Gazprom said in Brussels. Representative of the Ukrainian president Bogdan Sokolovsky assured him and the Europeans that Ukrainian gas pipelines were fine. Consumers will start getting gas again 24 to 30 hours after that, EU High Commissar for Energy Andris Piebalgs added.

Moscow’s conditions have been finally met. Official Kiev signed the protocol on international control. Independent observers set out for gas-measuring units.

There is only one issue to be resolved. Ukraine needs technical gas to pump fuel to Europe (nearly 21 million cubic meters every twenty-four hours) but lacks a contract with Gazprom. At the same time, Kiev flatly refuses to dip into its own gas reserves for this purpose. Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko warned that Gazprom should provide technical gas too because gas deliveries to Europe in full would be impossible without it. (Official Kiev promised to pay for the technical gas at some later date.) Gazprom meanwhile is determined to pump into the pipelines exactly as much gas as European consumers expect and no more. As far as the Russian company is concerned, Ukraine itself should take care of the matter and find technical gas to make transit to the European Union possible again. Moreover, this is what terms of the transit treaty stand for. Should Ukraine decide to make use of the gas exported to Europe, it will constitute theft again regardless of Kiev’s motives and purposes. Gas deliveries to the European Union might be suspended again, spokesmen for Gazprom warned (as had President Dmitry Medvedev).

Russia is even prepared to come to Ukraine’s help. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek yesterday that Ukraine could borrow money from the European Union and Russia could loan it part of the needed sum. Timoshenko’s advisor Alexander Gudyma called it a “provocation” and announced that the subject of borrowing anything from Russia had never even been raised in Ukraine.

Gazprom and Naftogaz will eventually have to resume talks over the matters what started the gas war in the first place: 2008 debt, contract for 2009 (including the transit treaty), debt for the gas taken from the pipes going to Europe in the first days of January. “We are ready when you are,” Medvedev told his Ukrainian opposite number Victor Yuschenko.

Needless to say, Russia and Ukraine see things differently. Russia’s position comes down to the following: Naftogaz owes Gazprom $614 million for 2008, the transit treaty expires in 2013 (it stipulates previous transport tariffs until 2010), Ukraine will have to pay Russia what the Europeans pay it for what gas it needs and what it used for technical purposes (86 million cubic meters).

As far as Ukraine is concerned, however, it has paid Russia the 2008 debt, in 2009 it is not prepared to pay more than $200 because this is the average price European consumers pay Russia, previous tariffs are no longer acceptable, and the gas used in January was not stolen at all since it was needed for technical purposes and would be paid for afterwards. In any event, Kiev pledges readiness for the talks too.

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