Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Intermediaries on a 50/50 basis

A day of quickly-moving events and deals today, described in a rather stilted "Russia Today" video report here

According to UNIAN :

Naftogaz and Gazprom have agreed to work together without intermediaries

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has told journalists that RosUkrEnergo - a joint venture of Gazprom and two shady Ukrainian businessmen, will be replaced by an new intermediary company "created on parity principles" between the Russian and Ukrainian state gas companies Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy.

Sale of gas on the Ukrainian market will be undertaken by a similar joint venture of these two same companies, replacing UkrGaz-Energo, which is currently owned by RosUkrEnergo and Naftohaz.

Miller also said that on Thursday the Ukrainian side will begin to pay back its debts.

The new companies will be created on a 50/50 basis. But where will they be registered? Who will be their directors? What about the details of the Putin/Yushchenko agreement?

Maybe it's the sceptic in me, but this reminds me of an exchange in a courtroom where a butcher was being tried for illegally adding old horse meat in his chicken pies.

The judge asks the accused: "Misleading your customers in this manner is a most serious offence. What do you have to say in your defence?"

"It wasn't that bad, your honour. After all, I was mixing the meat 50/50"

"Yes you were....Half of a horse to half of a chicken !"

Update: An article in today's 'Segodnya' says that after his meeting with president Putin, Yushchenko claimed RosUkrEnergo would remain in place at least until the end of this year - in other words defeat for Tymoshenko in her battle to eliminate RUE.

But, as I wrote above, a few hours later Alexei Miller announced that two new intermediaries were being set up to replace RUE and UkrGaz-Energo.

Gazprom press secretary Sergey Kuprianov tried to clear up these conflicting declarations and told 'Segodnya': RosUkrEnergo will be leaving the market as soon as the new structures are created - there are no contradictions in the statements of Yushchenko and Miller. In the next few days negotiations will take place, and it will be decided when the new joint venture will be created. This is a question of weeks".

'Segodya' points out that the new deal means the 4th January 2006 agreement, favourable to Russia, will become void, and speculates that in exchange Tymoshenko may have promised Putin to put the NATO business 'on the back-burner'. Or maybe they think in Moscow that Tymoshenko is on the way out before the end of the year anyway, and after this everything will return back to its place.

LEvko wonders whether the NATO Membership Action Plan letter was created just in order to gain a bargaining chip in the gas negotiations - or would this be just too Machiavellian a tactic?

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