Monday, June 26, 2006

Singing from the same hymn-sheet..

President Viktor Yushchenko and the three pro-Western Orange parties that will form the new government in Ukraine are all supporting the re-negotiation of natural gas agreements with Russia, according to Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's chief of staff. He said Yulia Tymoshenko, who will most-likely become prime minister, will have to move quickly on the re-negotiations.

Now today Anatoliy Kinakh, a former PM, former National Security and Defense chief, and currently one of the prime contenders for Parliamentary speaker, is also supporting Tymoshenko's demands to review Russian-Ukrainian gas agreements. He considers the 4th January deal to be imperfect, because it was made 'practically under 'force-majeure' conditions.

He said, "[We need to] enter a concrete negotiation process both in the Kyiv-Moscow-Ashkabad triangle, include the EU..[and] move to transparent relations with the Russian Federation."

When asked, "If Russia does not agree, what then?" He said, "We need to strive to gain access to the resource of central Asian natural gas." Kinakh has frequently been critical of Tymoshenko in the past, but not now, on this matter.

Fuel-Energy Minister of Ukraine Ivan Plachkov intents to leave for Ashkabat on June 27 to conduct talks on restoring the direct supplies of Turkmen gas, now that now President Niyazov has put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Today's Russian edition of "Newsweek" includes an interview with Tymoshenko. Quote: " I'm convinced: the three countries [Ukraine, Russia, Turkmenistan] and their state organizations [Naftogaz, Gazprom, Turkmennaftegaz] should conclude their deal directly. Without any interpreters, shadowy or half-shadowy intermediaries."

Some background to all of this here.

A quote: ..a hastily fashioned agreement between Russia and Ukraine on 4 January revealed the growing importance of Central Asian gas to Russia. Subsequent talks between top-level Russian negotiators, including President Vladimir Putin, and the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan drove the point home -- Central Asia's gas reserves are now poised to play a decisive role not only in the region's relations with Russia, but in Eurasian geopolitics as well.

Russia's rising appetite for Central Asian gas is a direct result of the shifting fortunes of Gazprom, the state-run Russian company that controls lucrative exports. The company's total gas production has flatlined at around 550 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year. With major fields yielding less as they age, Gazprom has chosen to maintain its all-important gas balance by purchasing gas on the side -- from independent producers in Russia and from Russia's Central Asian neighbors -- instead of investing in the lengthy and costly development of untapped Arctic fields, former Deputy Energy Minister Vladimir Milov explained in a 26 December article in "Novaya gazeta."

Maintaining the gas balance is crucial because Gazprom needs to keep up both domestic shipments, which serve to preserve social stability and subsidize the Russian economy, and exports, which produce profits. Faced with declining yields at home and rising demand across the board, Gazprom is looking south to make up the difference

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