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Yushchenko backs Russia gas deal review
Journal Staff Report

Rybachuk: Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine, Socialists united on gas deal

KIEV, June 23 – President Viktor Yushchenko and three pro-Western parties that have pledged to form the new government in Ukraine support plans to re-negotiate a controversial natural gas agreement with Russia, an official said Friday.

Oleh Rybachuk, the chief of staff at the Yushchenko office, said Yulia Tymoshenko, who become the prime minister within days, will have to move quickly on the re-negotiation.

“This is the demand from the coalition and from the president,” Rybachuk said at a press conference. “She will have to start dealing with this problem minutes” after she is approved on the post, Rybachuk said.

The comment underscores a turnaround in the position of Yushchenko, who has been so far defending the agreement on the grounds that it allows Ukraine to gets the cheapest gas among other countries in the region.

It also suggests that the government will have a strong position in talks with Russia as all three parties, the Tymoshenko group, Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party, have apparently agreed on the issue.

“There are no contradictions in positions of [Tymoshenko] group, Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party,” Rybachuk said.

Tymoshenko pledged Thursday to re-negotiate the gas agreement that had been signed by Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas giant, and Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company.

The pledge triggered angry comments from Gazprom and from Kremlin-linked political analysts warning about “a full scale gas war” between Ukraine and Russia, and its repercussions on Europe.

Tymoshenko always criticized the agreement that led to a 90% hike in gas prices for Ukraine from Jan. 1, but her plans to revisit the deal now carry a specific weight as she was likely to become the prime minister.

“When [Tymoshenko] made the statement, she had made it as a designated prime minister, as the prime minister,” Rybachuk said.

Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company, signed the agreement on Jan. 4 to end the escalating dispute that had led to brief disruptions in gas supplies throughout Europe.

In the agreement, Naftogaz agreed to a 90% hike in Russian gas prices to $95 per 1,000 cubic meters, while Gazprom agreed to a 40% hike in transit costs to $1.6 for shipping 1,000 cu m for a distance of 100 km.

Gazprom has originally insisted on increasing the price to $230/1,000 cu m, that’s why Naftogaz had defended the agreement and the price of $95/1,000 cu m price as a major victory.

Most of other countries in the region, such as Moldova and Georgia, pay $120/1,000 cu m of Russian gas.

The agreement also made RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-registered natural gas trader thought to be controlled by Gazprom, as Ukraine’s only supplier of natural gas for the next five years.

Media reports suggested that RosUkrEnergo may be secretly owned by people representing powerful Russian political figures and possibly even organized crime leaders. RosUkrEnergo denied the reports. (tl/ez)




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