KIEV, Aug. 9 ‚Äď Yuriy Boyko, Ukraine‚Äôs newly appointed energy and fuel minister, rushed to Moscow on Wednesday for talks with senior Russian officials seeking to secure sufficient supplies of natural gas amid looming gas shortages.
Boyko‚Äôs visit was handled in secrecy and urgency as even Oleh Diomin, Ukraine‚Äôs ambassador to Russia, said Wednesday he had not been aware of any scheduled meetings in Moscow.
But Boyko met Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to discuss ‚Äúgas sector cooperation,‚ÄĚ Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, told Kommersant daily late Wednesday. No other details of the meeting have been released.
The development comes as officials have been working to arrange a visit of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to Moscow next week for talks with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Yanukovych is also expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yanukovych was appointed to the post last week and his first after the appointment visit to Moscow underscores the urgency in tackling crucial issues, such as the looming shortage of natural gas.
Ukraine, which consumes about 76 billion cubic meters of gas annually, needs to import at least 56 billion cu m of gas in 2006 to meet the demand. But RosUkrEnergo, Ukraine‚Äôs only gas supplier that is thought to be controlled by Gazprom, has pledged to supply only 32 billion cu m.
Ukraine planned to import the remaining gas directly from Turkmenistan, but the talks have failed to materialize into the agreement. Turkmenistan suspended exports of gas to Ukraine on Jan. 1, which effectively leaves Ukraine with a looming shortage of up to 14 billion cu m, analysts said.
Ukraine has been trying to secure extra supplies of gas from Russia, but the parties failed to strike a deal as Gazprom has been suggesting to increase the price for the extra gas purchases to $230/1,000 cu m, up from $95/1,000 cu m.
The looming gas shortages represent a major challenge for the Yanukovych government that must be resolved before the end of September in order to be prevented.
‚ÄúWe want to discuss issues of the energy security,‚ÄĚ Diomin said at a press conference in Moscow speaking about the upcoming visit of Yanukovych. ‚ÄúGas problem has become the most important issue in relations between Ukraine and Russia.‚ÄĚ
RosUkrEnergo is thought to control some of the capacity in the pipelines that move gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine via Uzbekistan and Russia, and could be capable of arranging extra purchases of gas from Turkmenistan and its shipment to Ukraine, analysts said. But the parties have yet to agree on the prices. (tl/ez)