"Democracy is certainly weak in Russia, but society has become stronger. People start businesses, worship, travel abroad and live without fear of the state. The other dynamic at work in Russia is the urge to be a superpower again, and that tendency is most likely to be manifest in relation to Ukraine. For that reason Ukraine is right now the most important country in Europe." From today's 'Moscow Times'
"The Ukrainian transit system--pipelines and vast storage sites--handles an overwhelming share of Russian gas supplies to Europe, at an average annual throughput of some 120 billion cubic meters (the system’s design capacity being some 150 billion cubic meters). It also constitutes Ukraine’s most valuable economic asset by far, its worth being estimated at $ 10 billion to $ 13 billion by European experts." From Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies Washington, D.C.
"Putin stated in his annual news conference on February 1st 2007 that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych favored sharing control of Ukraine's transit pipelines through a consortium or similar deal with Russia, in return for Ukrainian "access" to oil and gas extraction projects on Russian territory. Presenting this idea as a Ukrainian proposal, Putin disclosed that it would figure on the agenda of Yushchenko's upcoming visit to Russia. Putin omitted to say that one extractive project under consideration for this deal, in Russia's Astrakhan oblast, has Dmytro Firtash as its main owner. Firtash fronts as the main shareholder in the purportedly Ukrainian half of Gazprom's offshoot RosUkrEnergo.
Putin's apparently calculated bean-spilling proved premature and forced Kyiv's proponents of this deal on the defensive politically. [On February 6th 2007] a Tymoshenko-initiated bill garnered 430 votes, with none opposed, in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.
The law bans any deals that would involve the sale, transfer, merger, joint venture, concession, lease, putting up as collateral, the joint or trust management, mortgaging, and any change in the status of ownership or control of Ukraine's gas transport system and other Naftohaz assets. It also stipulates that Naftohaz may not be declared bankrupt -- an ultimate safeguard against Russian debt-collection through asset-takeover." From Vladimir Socor.
Are Ukrainians going to be push-overs?