KIEV, Sept. 27 – The price of natural gas that Russia will charge Ukraine next year will depend on the government to be formed after the Sept. 30 election, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, said.
“It will depend on who comes [to the government] and how will they handle the talks,” Chernomyrdin said Thursday in comments carried by Interfax-Ukraine.
This is the first time that the Russian official has explicitly suggested the gas price will depend on the outcome of the election, a comment that may actually help pro-Russian parties.
The comment also increases fears of those in Ukraine who believe that Russia may try to use its monopoly gas supply power to punish any government that may be promoting a pro-Western foreign policy.
Ukraine, one of Europe’s biggest consumers of natural gas, relies heavily on supplies of gas at reasonable price to support its growing steel and power generating sectors.
But any sharp increase in gas prices may deal a blow for the government and may send shockwaves through the economy, analysts said.
Ukraine and Russia were supposed to agree on the 2008 gas prices before the middle of August, but Russia had unexpectedly postponed the talks to October and November.
Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, a member of the current pro-Russian government coalition, said earlier this month that Russia would punish the pro-Western government in Ukraine by increasing the gas price to $300/1,000 cu m.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has been issuing statements over the past two months assuring businesses in Ukraine that the gas price will not increase dramatically next year.