Late Wednesday night, the following appeared on the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers' website:
"Yulia Tymoshenko: NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" and "Gazprom" achieve complete understanding on ending gas tension
As Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko said during negotiations between NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" and "Gazprom" complete understanding on ending gas tension had been achieved.
"Gas volumes supplied to Ukraine are completely resumed and I am very glad that Ukraine held out in this very complicated confrontation and has not gone back a step in key issues of the national security. I am confident that now we start a stage of calm and balanced negotiations between "Gazprom" and NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy", Yulia Tymoshenko noted.
At the same time, the Head of Government noted that she had signed directives on negotiations which NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" to hold with "Gazprom".
According to the Prime Minister, the directives will be aimed at that NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" conclude a direct contract with "Gazprom-export" public corporation – a company which at 100 percent belongs to "Gazprom" and possesses contracts on Central Asiatic gas supplies from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
"Our task is to make NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" receive this gas," the Head of Government stressed.
At that, the Prime Minister stated that the Government proposed "Gazprom" to grant to its daughter enterprises licenses for independent gas sale of 1,25 billion cubic meters per year in Ukraine as compensation for liquidation of "UkrHazEnergo"
The PM also announced that "we intend to achieve understanding and I am sure that beginning March we can conclude all agreements which will be long-term and predictable both by supply volumes and prices and according to monthly balance".
"We should put an end to the tradition of short-term contracts for several months. I consider that long-term contracts – this is what both the Ukrainian and Russian sides need," Yulia Tymoshenko added.
At the same time the Prime Minister told that within nearest days NJSC "Naftohaz Ukrainy" would send its delegation to "Gazprom" for conducting negotiations on final regulation of the gas issue."
Today Tymoshenko wrote a 'don't-worry-pal' letter to president Yushchenko posted on the KabMin website:
"In reply to your letter of 4th March to the Government demanding immediate renewal of negotiations between Naftohaz and the Russian company Gazprom and normalization of relationships in the gas sphere, I am informing you that such negotiations were not stopped even for a day from the beginning of February 2008.
On 5th March, thanks to the efforts of the government, supply of gas to Ukraine was fully restored. This was achieved without withdrawing one step from the national interests of Ukraine."
The letter also included the following, as described by 'AFP'
"Ukraine PM rejects gas supply deal with Russia
KIEV (AFP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday rejected part of a gas supply deal with Russia, a day after the end of a three-day cut in supplies that raised concerns in Europe.
The deal would "preserve corrupt schemes and abuses, lead to the bankruptcy of (state gas firm) Naftogaz and contradict national interests," Tymoshenko said in an open letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko released by the government.
Yushchenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin struck an agreement in Moscow on February 12 intended to end a dispute over Ukraine's unpaid debts for Russian gas and to reorganise the gas supply relationship.
The terms of the deal were never made public but Tymoshenko made it clear that she did not agree with Russian demands, prompting Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom to cut supplies by 50 percent over Monday and Tuesday.
Gazprom restored the supplies on Wednesday but the substance of the dispute did not appear to have been resolved. In a joint statement on Wednesday, Gazprom and Naftogaz said negotiations would continue. Gazprom has demanded that Ukraine settle a debt of 600 million dollars.
"I will fulfil the agreements between the presidents of February 12 as far as the necessity of an urgent normalisation in relations in the gas sphere is concerned," Tymoshenko said in her letter. But, she added: "The cabinet of ministers cannot agree with several terms of these agreements," such as the gas price for 2008, the use of an intermediary company and moves to limit Naftogaz access to Ukraine's domestic market."
Serious observers consider that, again, it was Gazprom who backed down in this particular round of the long-running Russian/Ukrainian gas conflict. E.g. 'Kommersant''s headline was "Gazprom has surrendered to Ukraine", but then: "a truce has been been called in the gas war between Russia and Ukraine."
On 21st February Tymoshenko received what can only be described as a 'public bollocking' from Yushchenko delivered live on TV. Here is a transcript [from Taras's 'Ukrainiana' blog]:
"The accord reached between the two presidents stipulates that a debt of 7.5 billion hryvnias [$1.49 billion], which Ukraine owes for the past four months, should have begun being repaid starting February 14. As of today, of the 7.5 billion hryvnias, through tremendous effort — including my own — some 1.5 billion have been repaid.
Yesterday, I had a talk with Naftogaz: Why are the payments not forthcoming? Why hasn’t the Ministry of Finance paid Naftogaz a kopiyka in the way of compensations earmarked in the budget? I simply consider this situation to be sabotage. I will prepare a progress report for the Russian side on the payments Ukraine was obliged to make."
Tymoshenko, who tonight in Belgium claimed she was supported by the USA and Europeans in her endeavours, will be feeling vindicated for playing 'hard-ball, but will be well aware that there is much to do in order to get a long-lasting workable deal on gas deliveries for Ukraine.
President Yushchenko has hardly covered himself in glory. Tonight the head of his secretariat, Viktor Baloha, in a peevish statement on the president's website stated "the letter of the head of government misinforms society about the efforts of the president directed to solving the problems of gas delivery to our country." He considers the letter, "a gesture for the public, rather that a business-like document." So the Tymoshenko-Yushchenko feuding continues..
And PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych has been reduced to calling for mass protest against Ukraine's entry into NATO. Observers consider this to be an act of desperation and frustration of being in opposition. It may also be a sign PoR's popularity is slipping amongst the pro-Russian electorate. Without serious financial support to pay protestors, it probably won't come to much.
Some NUNS members have been critical of Tymoshenko's letter to the president too, calling it a breach of the Putin-Yushchenko agreement. So, what future for the BYuT-NUNS coalition, now that parliament is finally back at work?