Stanislav Belkovsky, the controversial Russian political scientist [who recently claimed President Putin was the richest man in Europe and that he would leave power completely after the March elections], in an article in 'RIA Novosti' considers Yulia Tymoshenko to be "Lukashenko in a skirt", but as a partner-negotiator for the Kremlin, she is more convenient than Viktor Yushchenko, or even Viktor Yanukovych.
Belkovsky says relations between Putin and Tymoshenko cannot be defined simply, but that he should not be considered an absolute enemy of the Ukrainian premier. "Remember that during September 2005, immediately after Tymoshenko's resignation from the post of prime minister, Putin twice met with her; but after this, contact between them was broken. The question now is will Tymoshenko be able to renew [their relationship] to the previous level of mutual loyalty and trust ," questions Belkovsky.
According to him there are arguments for and against this course of events. "The main argument for is the figure of Viktor Medvedchuk, head of former president Kuchma's presidential administration (and a close personal friend of Putin and [Dmitry] Medvedev), and who supports Tymoshenko and is one of her main unofficial representatives in Moscow. Arguments against - Putin considers Tymoshenko has not kept any of her promises given to him in September 2005 during their informal encounter on the anniversary of the-then secretary of the Security Council of Russia Igor Ivanov, and subsequently at their joint dinner in the residence of the President in Novo-Ogarevo, near Moscow ", explained the political scientist.
Belkovsky considers that gas will be the main theme of negotiations of the Ukrainian premier in Moscow [during her visit next week]. Tymoshenko has long expressed a wish to reorganize Ukraine's gas import schemes, but it's clear that the basics cannot be changed. In order to preserve the price of gas for Ukraine below the Gazprom price, it is necessary to mix expensive Russian gas with cheaper Central-Asian gas; and to make up this cocktail, a mediator [i.e. RosUkrEnergo] is necessary. [LEvko considers this to be baloney]
He does note that in the Kremlin there are people who would like to see the back of the indermediary companies, but there is a considerable lobby of supporters in favour of them. It is not possible to underestimate the fact that the executive director of "RosUkrEnergo", Konstantin Chuychenko is a close friend from student days at university of the future President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, which makes it possible to confidently assume that Medvedev is rather a supporter of the present system of trade in gas, than an enemy, concludes Belkovsky.
At best Ukraine and Russia may agree on the replacement of one intermediary company with another; but major change in the way the Ukrainian/Russian gas business proceeds will not change. If it did, the price of gas would increase to $230 dollars per thousand cu.m. or more, says Belkovsky.
ps. According to 'insiders', Ukraine may demand transit tariffs for westbound Russian gas to be increased from $1.7 to $9.32 /1000 cu.m/100km.