News / Europe

Kyiv’s Move Toward EU Fuels Ukraine-Russia Gas Tensions

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych (file photo)
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych (file photo)
James Brooke

Russia and Ukraine are in tough talks to avoid what could be their third gas war in five years. Our correspondent reports on what is behind the tension.

On Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Ukraine, “You can’t torpedo existing contracts.” Earlier, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych threatened to take Russia to international arbitration to decide their fight over Ukraine’s top import - Russian gas. The move calls into question the Russia-Ukraine rapprochement that was supposed to follow last year’s election of Mr. Yanukovych, the so-called "pro-Russian candidate."

Oleg Voloshyn, a spokesman for Ukraine’s government, says in an interview in Kyiv that behind the rancor is Ukraine’s refusal to join a Moscow-led customs union.

“We want to be friends with Russia, but we want to move to European Union," said Voloshyn.

In the last year, Russia’s top leaders have all spelled out to President Yanukovych the benefits of joining a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Gazprom has dangled an $8-billion discount on Ukraine’s gas bill. But in a series of personal rebuffs, Ukraine’s president repeatedly refused.

Viktor Chumak, director of the Ukrainian Public Policy Institute, says public opinion polls consistently show that more than 70 percent of Ukrainians want their country to join the European Union.

Chumak says Ukraine’s government and opposition are only divided regarding tactics on how to reach the same goal - joining the EU.

In public statements before and after Ukraine’s August 24 Independence Day celebrations, President Yanukovych flatly stated that he has set a 10-year goal for Ukraine to join the European Union. He hopes that a framework agreement will be signed by December between Ukraine and the European Union.

Oleg Voloshyn at the Foreign Ministry again:

“Our position here is that we really do aspire to become part, and a member of, the European Union," he said.

Parallel to these talks with Europe, talks with Moscow on Ukraine’s 10-year gas contract are getting increasingly sharp. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin symbolically opened North Stream - a direct Russia-Germany gas line that runs under the Baltic Sea. The line is essentially a 1,200-kilometer end run around transit countries, such as Ukraine.

After turning a pipeline wheel, Putin declared, “We are slowly and surely turning away from the dictates of transit states.” Believing that Russia has a strong hand, Mr. Putin has said that Ukraine would also get a gas price discount if it allowed Gazprom, Russia’s state gas company, to buy Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company.

Alyona Getmanchuk, director of Kyiv’s World Policy Institute, compares that merger to “a supermarket taking over a kiosque.”

She says Gazprom contracts tie Russian gas prices to world oil prices. They are on a ‘take or pay’ basis.  She says companies have to pay for gas they do not use. World gas prices are low as shale gas production has soared in the United States, taking the U.S. out of the market as an importer.

Companies in Greece, Germany and Italy are seeking to cut the link between gas and oil prices - and to bring Russian gas prices down to world levels. With billions of dollars at stake, Kyiv’s Getmanchuk believes that another gas war is in the cards.

With billions of dollars at stake, Kyiv’s Getmanchuk believes that another gas war is in the cards.

In the last gas war, in January 2009, Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine, affecting at least 10 European countries for three weeks in the middle of winter.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More