Saturday, February 09, 2008

High noon approaching..

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller has requested Viktor Yushchenko assists in regulating the current Russian/Ukrainian gas crisis, the complex details of which are brilliantly explained at Kremlin Inc.

According to a posting on the president of Ukraine's website, Miller has sent Yush a telegram today declaring that even though he realizes contacting the President of Ukraine by this means is outside normal diplomatic protocol, he is appealing to the Ukrainian Head of The State to take account the "critical state" of the current crisis, and requests he assists in its resolution.

In particular, he accuses Naftogaz Ukrainy of unsanctioned tapping off of gas from main gas transit pipelines, and of delaying payments for consumed gas.

According to the telegram, if the problem is not resolved by 12 noon on 11th February the supply of Russian gas for Ukrainian consumers will be terminated, and, much more significantly, supply of gas from central Asia will be "limited".

According to the presidential website, Yushchenko has transmitted the contents of the telegram immediately to prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

In an accompanying letter to her, Yushchenko has demanded that all necessary documents between Naftogaz and the Russian side on deliveries of gas be signed by the end of Sunday 10th February. The President has determined, "that the prime minister must personally take all of the necessary measures and report back when this has been accomplished."

"Today's Presidential order to the government is the last impulse for concrete actions. We can delay no longer," says head of pres's secretariat Viktor Baloga.

Ukraine consumes about 70 billion cu.m. [bcm] of natural gas p.a., 3/4 of which it imports at $179.5 per tcm., so the the total value of Ukraine's annual consumption is approximately $12.5Bn. Gazprom claim 'the Ukrainian side' has debts of $500m accumulated since the beginning of the year, and $1Bn in longer term debts. In rough terms, this is probably less that a winter month's consumption, so Gazprom's attitude is heavy-handed to say the least, particularly as their figures may be dubious and are being contested. They have ulterior, more sinister motives for their gangster-like behaviour, particularly as Ukraine, until a few years ago, used to buy gas direct from central Asia. [See my previous posting.]

"Russia Today's" take, with some nasty patronizing comments, here. A portion :- "Sergey Mikheev from the Moscow-based Centre of Political Technologies says, “Nobody wants to completely cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and watch it dying of hunger”. [A Freudian slip, no?]

I hope that the Europeans who are busy setting up their own individual deals with Gazprom for supply of gas are taking note. Diversification and alternative supplies of fuel are vital if they are not to find themselves, sooner or later, in the same predicament as Ukraine.

p.s. Bonus 'Brownie points' to 'Stratfor' for predicting the current problems.

They foresaw that Ukraine would have to pay more for her gas imports when Turmenistan, perhaps by flirting with potential Chinese and European customers, managed to negotiate big increases in the price of its gas from Gazprom.

"..recent elections have returned the Orange coalition to power, Gazprom now has to pay more [to Turkmenistan] for its natural gas, and Ukraine’s current contract with Gazprom expires at the end of the year. It is almost inevitable that a fresh natural gas fight between Moscow and Kiev will erupt," said Stratfor last November.

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