KIEV, March 11 – The government on Tuesday denied media reports that Ukraine had allegedly agreed to pay almost twice as much for natural gas that Russia’s Gazprom supplied in January and February.
“This information does not correspond to reality,” the government said in a specially issued statement.
The statement denied the report by Kommersant daily that Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company, has recently signed a deal with Gazprom agreeing to pay $321 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas.
This price would be challenging for Ukraine, which has officially agreed to pay $179.5 per 1,000 cu m for gas in 2008, up from $130 paid in 2007.
Should Ukraine officially agree to purchasing any amount of gas at such a high price, this would effectively strengthen Gazprom’s case of forcing Ukraine to accept a much higher gas price in 2009.
The report comes days after a public clash between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko over the price of gas that Ukraine must pay for Russian gas supplies in 2008.
Yushchenko in a statement on Friday said Tymoshenko had lied to the people when she had said it was the president’s position that Ukraine must pay $312 per 1,000 cu m.
Yushchenko was forced to declassify his secret instructions issued last week ahead of the crucial talks with Moscow showing the government must stick with the price of $179.5 per 1,000 cu m for supplies in 2008.
The newspaper said it had obtained a photocopy of the deal signed on March 6 by Ihor Didenko, the deputy head of Naftogaz, and Gazprom officials apparently stipulating the high gas price.
Didenko, Naftogaz’s key negotiator with Russia, on Tuesday did not comment on the report. Didenko and Oleh Dubyna, the head of Naftogaz, on Tuesday left for Moscow for a round of talks with Gazprom following a standoff between the two companies last week.
The report fuels controversy over sensitive issue of gas supplies and prices in place between Ukraine and Russia, following the last week’s standoff that had forced Gazprom to restrict gas supplies to Ukraine by 50%.
Two days later Gazprom was forced to resume the supplies in full after Ukraine has officially warned the Russian company it may start using some of Russia’s Europe-bound gas supplies for domestic use.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, on Tuesday in Brussels said that her government will never agree to sign the gas price that exceeds $179.5 per 1,000 cu m in 2008.
“There cannot be any other prices,” Tymoshenko told reporters, adding that she was not aware of any agreements that could have been signed to stipulate the higher price.
“Of course, I will find out if there are any deals setting the prices either at $321 or $314,” Tymoshenko said. “Of course, the government will not let signing agreements like that.”
Analysts said Russia seeks to charge the higher gas price for about 4 billion cubic meters of its own gas that it claims had been supplied to Ukraine in January and February.
Gazprom claims it was forced to supply its own, more expensive gas, after Turkmenistan reduced supplies of its cheaper due to colder whether in Central Asian in January.
Tymoshenko said the demands to pay higher gas price may be related to non-transparent business practices between Gazprom, RosUkrEnergo and UkrGaz-Energo. She said 4 billion cubic meters of gas may have been exported to the European Union at a higher price.
“This gas was simply taken out of Ukraine,” Tymoshenko said. “And now they put Ukraine in a situation that the country has a shortage and want to cover the shortage at the expense of Russian gas at the price of more than $300.” (tl/ez)