KIEV, Nov. 27 – President Viktor Yushchenko, citing intelligence reports, said Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has secretly agreed to foreign policy concessions to Russia in exchange for waving $8 billion natural gas penalty.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, following a meeting with Tymoshenko late Thursday, said the penalty was waved due to “special” relationship between Kiev and Moscow. He never elaborated.
But Yushchenko said Tymoshenko had allegedly promised to postpone Ukraine’s accession to NATO and to extend the stationing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea beyond 2017, when the 20-year agreement is to expire.
“The formula that has been accepted by Tymoshenko is the formula of capitulation,” Yushchenko said in a talk show at Inter television late Friday.
Asked what was the source of this information, Yushchenko said: “I know this from the president’s mail,” a term he usually uses to describe top secret intelligence reports.
Putin met Tymoshenko in Yalta, Crimea, late Thursday as both have discussed natural gas issues, including the $8 billion penalty that Russian gas giant Gazprom could slap on Naftogaz Ukrayiny at the end of 2009.
The penalty comes from a gas agreement that has been negotiated by Tymoshenko and Putin in January, as Ukraine has failed to import the pledged amount of Russian natural gas due to the economic crisis.
The agreement, however, does not anticipate any penalties from Gazprom for failing to move the pledged amount of its gas via Ukrainian pipelines to markets in the European Union that Yushchenko believes is unfair.
Yushchenko repeatedly criticized the agreement, and had urged the government to renegotiate it to secure better terms for Ukraine.
Tymoshenko defended the agreement. On Wednesday, one day before her meeting with Putin, she said the agreement was so good that gas issues were not even on agenda of her talks with Putin.
But comments from Putin and Tymoshenko immediately after the meeting indicate that natural gas issues have dominated the talks.
Yushchenko, ever after his inauguration in January 2005, has been promoting Ukraine’s accession to NATO and closer cooperation with the European Union.
This policy angered Russian leaders that see NATO as a military threat.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has boycotted Yushchenko for the past 18 months. He recently accused Yushchenko of “anti-Russian” policy.
On the other hand, Putin has been frequently meeting Tymoshenko in a sign that the Russian leadership has been viewing her as an alternative to Yushchenko.
Tymoshenko’s stance toward NATO has been unclear. She originally supported the idea, but, following a meeting with Putin in April, she has apparently suddenly changed that position toward moderate cooperation with the alliance.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are running for the presidency at the next election due on January 17, 2010, with Tymoshenko being ahead of Yushchenko by a big margin.
Yushchenko, speaking at a congress of his party, Our Ukraine, on Saturday, said if Tymoshenko wins the election, her first decree would be to announce a referendum on NATO.
Such referendum would derail Ukraine’s accession to NATO by cementing negative attitude of Ukrainians towards the alliance. Yushchenko said the people must be educated first, and the referendum should be announced shortly before the accession.
“If she wins, the next step that she will make is to announce the referendum on NATO,” Yushchenko said. “This shouldn’t be done now, because the Ukrainian people need information.” (tl/ez)