KIEV, March 7 – President Viktor Yushchenko in a strong statement on Friday accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of lying to the people about his position at recent sensitive natural gas talks between Ukraine and Russia.
Yushchenko responded sharply to an open letter from Tymoshenko, in which she had publicly disagreed with what she had cited as the presidential position at the talks.
To back up his statement, Yushchenko went for an unprecedented move: he de-classified secret instructions that he had issued for the government ahead of the crucial talks with Moscow.
The declassified documents were used in particular to refute Tymoshenko’s public statements that she would not accept an unusually high price that had been allegedly set for Russian natural gas purchases at $312 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2008.
She also refused to accept new joint ventures that allegedly were to have been created between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukrayiny while replacing two controversial gas traders, RosUkrEnergo and UkrGaz-Energo.
“The sense of agreements between [Russian and Ukrainian] presidents was not that they would decide on which joint ventures must be created,” Yushchenko told reporters in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. “We didn’t talk about the joint ventures. We did not talk about the price of $312 [per 1,000 cu m] for gas supplies in 2008. These are total lies.”
The declassified instructions, posted at the presidential website, never mention the price of $312 per 1,000 cu m of gas. Instead, the instructions directly specify the price of $130/1,000 cu m for gas supplied in 2007 and $179.5/1,000 cu m for gas supplied in 2008.
The instructions also call for removing RosUkrEnergo and UkrGAz-Energo before the end of the year and urge the government to create a system of direct gas supplies between Ukraine and Russia.
The creation of the joint ventures, mentioned as one of possible options, apparently leave the matter up for the government to decide “if necessary.”
The released instructions show a completely different picture compared with what had been presented in the letter by Tymoshenko. The development underscores increasingly tense relations between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.
“This is the unprecedented step, but I am forced to make it with only one goal,” Yushchenko said after de-classifying the instructions. “Let a Ukrainian journalist, let the people know the true position of the president and not the distorted and biased one that had been presented in the mailings of some businesspeople in Ukraine.”
Although groups loyal to Yushchenko and Tymoshenko formed the pro-Western government in December 2007, both leaders are seen as potential rivals at the next presidential election due at the end of 2009. (tl/ez)