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Prez warns ministers about foreign policy
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Oct. 25 – President Viktor Yushchenko warned the government’s top energy negotiators on Wednesday that Ukraine’s pro-Western foreign policy course must not be affected by recent natural gas supply deal with Russia.

Yushchenko summoned up Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Complex Andriy Kliuyev and Energy and Fuel Minister Yuriy Boyko for an urgent meeting before his departure to Ukraine-EU summit in Finland.

The meeting comes amid persistent reports that Russia has been demanding geopolitical concessions from Ukraine, such as suspending its accession to NATO and the World Trade Organization, in exchange for better gas prices.

The development shows that Yushchenko has been taking the reports seriously and has been taking extra steps to make sure that Ukraine continues its course on closer cooperation with the West.

“The price of gas and relations in the gas sector in no way must be linked to any geopolitical issues, such as the accession to NATO or joining the WTO,” Yushchenko said.

Yushchenko met the negotiators a day after RosUkrEnergo, a gas trader controlled by Gazprom of Russia, had pledged to sell gas to Ukraine at $130 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, up from $95/1,000 cu m in 2006.

Although the deal anticipates a 37% hike in gas prices, it still represents a discount to the price of $260/1,000 cu m that is commonly paid throughout Europe, analysts said.

The deal fueled suspicions that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who has been campaigning earlier this year for closer ties with Russia, may have made secret geopolitical commitments to Moscow.

“We do not know all of the circumstances of the price of $130/1,000 cu m,” Oleksandr Chaliy, Yushchenko’s deputy chief of staff, said. “In order to see whether this is good or bad, we have to know the formula had been used to calculate the price.”

Ukraine’s accession to NATO has been already postponed indefinitely after Yanukovych had last month refused to join the Membership Action Plan, a program that usually leads to joining the alliance within two years.

The Regions Party, Parliament’s largest group controlled by Yanukovych, has been also seeking to postpone accession to the WTO without citing any clear reason.

RosUkrEnergo said Tuesday it had signed the deal with UkrGaz-Energo, a Ukraine-registered gas trader it controls, to supply up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas at $130/1,000 cu m to Ukraine in 2007.

The deal between the two gas traders is a departure from previous such agreements that have been usually signed by governments of Ukraine and Russia.

Yushchenko told Kliuyev and Boyko the deal must be also signed by the two governments. (tl/ez)




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