Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Time on Tymoshenko' side?

Yulka T. has every chance to win the current "gas war", according to an article in 'Gazeta po Kiyevski':

"Blows from the Kremlin's "gas bludgeon" on Ukraine are intensifying. First, on 3rd March, deliveries of gas decreased by almost 30%. On Tuesday evening Gazprom screwed down the gas valves 25% more, so in two days Ukraine is receiving less than half of normal supplies.

It's clear Moscow is using all means possible to pressurize Tymoshenko in order to retain the infamous gas mediators in the gas supply chain. There has been a co-ordinated information attack in the mass media supported by opposition Party of Regions, who are demanding the resignation of the premier, and also constant criticism by President Viktor Yushchenko, who is urging Tymoshenko's government to return to negotiations and speedily resolve the crisis, even though the President concedes Gazprom are not paying their fees for transit of gas through Ukraine.

However, in the psychological war with Gazprom, time may be on the side of Yulia T. hence the rapid, rather desperate ramping up of pressure by the Russian monopolist.

In Moscow they understand that either they succeed in crushing the Ukrainian premier after several decisive days, or it will be necessary to capitulate and lift the "gas blockade". The last thing they want is to negotiate with Tymoshenko in the imperious corridors the Kremlin.

Russian political scientist Stanislav Belkovskiy reckons Gazprom cannot artificially decrease the deliveries of gas to Ukraine for any great period of time. Gas production is a continuous process, and thus far, gas earmarked for delivery to Ukraine is being pumped into Russian underground depositories - but their capacity is limited. The other alternative is the costly and wasteful flaring off of gas into the atmosphere.

Belkovskiy is convinced the aim of this high-stakes game is to force the resignation of premier Tymoshenko, and to ensure a more compliant person is appointed PM.

Gazprom is hoping that Ukraine will be forced into unsanctioned siphoning off of gas intended for the European consumers, so creating an international scandal for "stealing" Russian gas. As a result, they will kill two birds with one stone. First, they will spoil Ukraine's image as reliable transit country, and secondly, Europe will apply huge pressurize on the intractable prime minister, via diplomatic channels, to settle with Gazprom.

At the moment there are sufficient reserves of gas in Ukraine, possibly even for a month. A source from MinPalEnerho [ministry of fuel and energy], has told 'Gazeta po Kiyevski' that there are sufficient resources to cover for undelivered imported gas. These comprise home-produced gas, and also fuel stored in Ukraine's own underground depositories belonging to structures not connected with the mediators "UkrGazEnergo" and "RosUkrEnergo".

The main thing is that "Naftohaz Ukrainy" are not yet considering yielding to the provocation by siphoning off Russian gas. And they intend to prove to Europe that Gazprom itself has not been paying for the transit of gas for two months now.

But things are not so rosy in Ukraine either. Naftohaz are already finding it necessary to reduce gas supplies to certain cities.

However, the Russian monopolist is daily losing more than $10 million from the decrease of the deliveries of gas to Ukraine. How far will the Kremlin goes in order to tame the obstinate Tymoshenko and get advantageous contracts - time will show."

LEvko considers much depends on how long Naftohaz has been preparing for this showdown, which they must have known was coming as soon as Tymoshenko became premier for a second time. Gazprom's hand would be a bit stronger if they were up-to-date with their payments for transit - after all rates were agreed long ago.

p.s. Tomorrow Tymoshenko will be in Brussels for a couple of days attending a women's conference. She will be meeting Condi Rice, the German minister of foreign affairs, the Finnish president, and the speaker of the Georgian parliament.


Anonymous said...

At the very least Tym will have to provide a ladder for the Russians to climb down on - what's even billions of roubles worth compared to saving face. And then Russia can always take revenge in a more measured way afterwards unless Ukraine starts really reducing comsumption and developing their own resources but that takes time and money and longer-term planning. why also did Tym say very publically on Sat that Gazprom would not cut - was she just gaoding them on because she wanted the showdown or does this indicate that it really was a surprise and Naftogaz aren't prepared?

Anonymous said...

Tym could be holding a winning hand here - if the eventual compromise is that Ukraine pays the debts but that from now on Gazprom sells direct to Naftogaz - since Gazprom in the eyes of Europe can hold out for the debt but not for the right of shady middlemen and they might not want to put the price up because for the time being they need Ukraine's transit network. And the main thing: Tym will have really pulled on over Yush - got rid of the middlemen at no cost