KIEV, April 27 â€“ Ukraine should accelerate talks with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan over natural gas supplies amid signs that the country may face shortages, a top security advisor to President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday.
Anatoliy Kinakh, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, a body advising the president on strategic issues, said Ukraine should step up diplomatic efforts to avert the negative scenario.
â€śToday there is a threatening situation that affects not only prices, but also volumes of gas supplies,â€ť Kinakh said addressing a government meeting.
The comments may be an indication that Ukraine expects a new wave of confrontation with Russia over natural gas supplies and seeks to diversify imports by switching to the Central Asia.
A dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices in January led to disruptions of gas supplies to the European Union, highlighting Russiaâ€™s readiness to use energy resources for political pressure on neighbors.
The developments underscore Russiaâ€™s growing geopolitical ambitions and efforts to punish countries like Ukraine for their steps to pursue pro-Western foreign policy.
Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, said earlier this month said Ukraine will probably have to pay higher prices for gas in the second half of the year, but Kinakhâ€™s comments suggest the country may also face shortages.
â€śWe have to significantly strengthen cooperation on these issues with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, including through diplomatic channels,â€ť Kinakh said. â€śUnfortunately, no active work has been done there.â€ť
Meanwhile, the plans to boost cooperation with Central Asian nations may face significant challenges due to Russiaâ€™s control of the only gas pipeline that moves gas from the region to Ukraine.
Gas supplies from Turkmenistan, the second biggest producer of gas in the former Soviet Union, have to travel via the pipeline crossing Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia before reaching Ukraine.
Last year, Gazprom purchased all available gas pipeline capacity in Uzbekistan, Russiaâ€™s key ally in the Central Asia, effectively blocking all gas supplies between Turkmenistan to Ukraine.
Gazprom later transferred the capacities to RosUkrEnergo, a controversial gas trader it controls, making the trader de-facto the only gas supplier to Ukraine starting this year.
Plachkov told the meeting that he was concerned about the situation when Ukraine was not able to move Central Asian gas to its borders.
Meanwhile, a dispute between Ukraine and Turkmenistan over natural gas debt earlier this year had worsened relations between the two countries, which apparently led to Turkmen President Separmurat Niyazov to postpone his visit to Ukraine.
Ukraine has been seeking to sign a 25-year gas supply agreement with Turkmenistan that would allow the country to completely phase out gas purchases from Russia through 2031.
Ukraine has been seeking to buy between 40 billion cubic meters and 60 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan annually starting in 2007, according to Plachkov.
Adding to Ukraineâ€™s energy supply concerns, Turkmenistan has recently concluded agreements that call for greater supplies of natural gas to China, Iran and Russia, suggesting that Turkmenistan has been trying to reduce its dependence on Ukraine as a gas buyer. (jp/ez)