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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs