Friday, November 28, 2008

Tymoshenko no longer flavour of the month in Moscow

In recent times PM Tymoshenko had virtually gained the position of Ukraine's favourite politician amongst Russia's leadership. Memorandums on supply of gas had been signed and work had commenced on long-term co-operation in the gas sphere.

But a recent article in Unian explains why she is back 'in the doghouse' again. Threats to hike up the price of gas for Ukrainian consumers to stratospheric levels have been made, and prompt payment for gas bill demanded, i.e. a return to the normal situation in Russian/Ukrainian relations during any Autumn and Winter period.

Russian experts claim Gazprom have debts of over $40Bn. Until recently the company had a market value of nearly $300Bn, so the debt was managable, but now the company's value is well under $100Bn. Gas prices may be falling quite soon too as they are linked to the price of petroleum, so Gazprom need to squeeze as much as they can from their customers, like Ukraine.

Russia is having second thoughts on cutting out the gas middleman RosUkrEnerho after serious lobbying by Dmitro Firtash and Yuriy Boyko [and possibly others*].

Finally, the forthright position of the Ukraine's president on the commemoration of the 75th anniversay of the Holodomor famine has angered Russia's leaders.

Tymoshenko's measured attitude to the Georgian/Russian mini-war, in contrast to that of Yushchenko, pleased the Kremlin. The author of the Unian article claims he has reasons to reasonably assume that Vladimir Putin may have contacted the Ukrainian PM requesting she at least hints that the Holodomor may not have been a genocide, thus isolating Yushchenko and his rigid position on this issue. But this may have been a step too far for her - the political price would have been too great.

Unian concludes that Tymoshenko' recent article in 'The Economist' may have been an olive branch offered to the Russian side.

*An 'Obozrevatel' article by the excellent Sonya Koshkina sheds some light on the tangled webs linking RUE, Russian and Ukrainian businessmen, and Vladimir Putin.

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