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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs