Russian president Dmitry [Dima] Medvedev is currently in Spain on an official visit - an interview with him was published in the Spanish media yesterday. Below are portions relating to Ukraine:
PILAR BONET: Ukraine and Russia waged another “gas war” in January, and many Western observers note heavy financial losses incurred by Russia, as well as certain loss of credibility. You wrote about it, too, and Gazprom mentioned it. I got first-hand information, although I cannot quote it from the closed source, that high-ranking Russian officials were opposed to cutting gas supplies to Ukraine. Next time when you face this problem, what will you do? In January, when you negotiate new prices, will you cut supplies too, or will you rather file a claim to the International Court of Arbitration in Stockholm, applicable to such cases, as you are perfectly aware of as a lawyer?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: First, we did not cut supplies, we just faced a situation when Ukraine did not renew its agreements with us. We had no legal basis for supplying gas; therefore, we had to make tough decisions, which we did not want to make and would like to avoid in the future.
As a result of complicated, even dramatic discussions with our Ukrainian partners, we reached an agreement, signed on January 19, in accordance with which Ukraine is now purchasing Russian gas at market prices and is supposed to make payments on time. The next payment, which I guess is about 400million dollars, is due soon.
In case of non-payment, stricter provisions of this agreement will apply: Ukraine will be receiving further supplies on a pre-paid basis. While now we are supplying gas on credit, on trust, yet at market prices, next we will have to switch to pre-paid supplies. Naturally, these consequences will follow in case of the untimely payment by Ukraine. Of course, we hate turning back to the previous scenario, this is surely not our choice, but I can tell you frankly that we will have to act correspondingly if they refuse to pay.
Recently I met here with my colleague, Mr Barroso, who was accompanied by many European commissioners on his trip. I told him one simple thing: if we are to bring security to everybody, to European customers, and to guarantee a decent level of cooperation between us, let us help the Ukrainians. In fact, they are in dire straits now.
According to some analysts, the Ukrainian economy now is on the brink of collapse. If we see that they are unable to pay, let us make a financial pool and give them money. I believe this is an option for everybody. There is a system of European financial institutions, we may be involved in this too, and we are prepared to contribute some money in order to normalize supplies, but let us do this in a civilized manner. We came up with the proposal to set a consortium, that is, to buy some amounts of gas; this proposal is still valid, so let us do it if we see that Ukraine is unable to pay. However, the deadline has not expired yet, and I believe our Ukrainian partners are willing and able to resolve this issues.
As for the Russian officials you have mentioned, those who were against this strategy, tell me who they are, and they will be fired.
Meanwhile, Ukraine/Russia gas problems could flare up again in the next few days because of the non payment of gas bills mentioned by Medvedev.
p.s. The editor of the "Donetsk Mafia" book, Borys Penchuk has been sentenced, by a regional court in Donetsk, to an eight year 'stretch' in prison, and has been stripped of all of his assets. He had been charged with 'extortion' and 'falsly reporting the perpetration of a crime'.
His book is an anthology of articles, many gleaned from the internet, describing the circumstances surrounding the violent deaths of many dozens of eastern Ukraine's businessmen, and the rise to power of some of Ukraine's oligarchs who now control major portions of Ukraine's industrial and commercial sector.
Two of them, Rinat Akhmetov and Borys Kolesnikov, allegedly attended president Yushchenko's 55th birthday party at his retreat in the Carpathian mountains recently. Wonder what pressies they brought?