Wednesday, February 07, 2007

VR spits in Putin's porridge

On Thursday 1st February, at his [last?] annual press conference, Putin declared that Ukraine intends to propose returning to the idea of creation of a gas transport consortium involving exchange of part of Ukraine's gas pipes though which Russia exports gas to Europe, for access to gas assets in Russia.

It's worth reading in full what he said:

"Regarding the creation of a gas transport consortium, we are not opposed to the idea, if Ukraine wishes to come back to this matter. We know that government experts and experts in the presidential office are currently working on this and are looking for the optimum approach to implementing this idea for our Ukrainian partners. I do not want to set off intrigue, but as is often the case, the proposal our Ukrainian friends have made is revolutionary in nature.

We need to think about it, but we are interested. I would like to meet soon with [Ukrainian President] Viktor Andreyevich Yushchenko and perhaps also with the Ukrainian prime minister to discuss their proposals that are currently being examined at expert level in Russia.

The proposal concerns a merger of assets. Our Ukrainian friends not only want to create a gas transport consortium but also want the possibility of having a stake in production assets on Russian territory. As a rule, we do not do this. But we have accepted this as part of the relations we have developed with our European partners, with German company BASF, for example, and it is something we are in the process of completing with E.ON.
We have also reached an agreement of this nature with Italian company ENI, and so why not also reach a similar agreement with our Ukrainian partners?

We just need to work out what kind of stake and which assets our Ukrainian partners are interested in, and what our companies would receive. But this is an issue to be worked out and settled at corporate and expert level. From the state’s point of view, there are no obstacles to carrying out an idea of this kind."

Yanukovych also admitted there was a possiblity of transfer of part of Ukraine's gas transport system in exchange for parity participation in gas extraction assets in Russia.

"We are talking of intentions at the moment. If we will start to talk of unification, then this should be at the level of partner relationship. These relations should be understood - 50-50 as they say," said Yanukovych, adding that Ukraine and Russia should develop a new model of relations in the energy sphere in order to achieve success in energy security of both countries."

These statements all caused quite a furore in Ukraine, and on Tuesday the 450-seat VR, at the insistence of the opposition, voted on and approved by whopping 430 votes, a law absolutely prohibiting any change in ownership of Ukraine's gas transport system or property of Ukraine's state gas monopoly, Naftogaz.

Today Yanukovych denied all the accusations that he had been selling Ukraine short, saying that talks with Russia were only about the construction of new pipelines. "We have never talked with Russia about the existing gas transport system."

What was all this 'quick footwork' all about?

Putin, probably got a bit carried away on this topic [..."Visibly relaxed and oozing self-confidence, President Vladimir Putin met a record 1,139 journalists in the vast Kremlin auditorium Thursday for his sixth, and possibly last, annual press conference" ]
which eventually resulted in the VR vote on the gas transport system - an unmistakable signal to Russia - 'keep your fingers out of our cookie jar'.

It is unlikely that Putin lied when he made his statement about agreements with Ukrainian officials.

BYuT and NU can now feel a bit better about one another, having forced through and won the vote. And PoR and the junior anti-crisis coalition members have taken the opportunity to show their pro-Ukrainian credentials too.

LEvko thinks that a Ukrainian-European-Russian consortium is not such a bad idea, especially if it could be part of an international central Asia - Europe gas pipeline system. The Europeans will not been overwhelmed by the VR vote. Maybe Yushchenko can explain everything to Angela Merkel in Germany tomorrow..Oh, and Putin rather dropped Yush in the doodoo..

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