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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

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