News / Europe

Ukrainian PM Leans Toward Gas Union with Russia

Ukraine Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says he has no objections to a surprise proposal by his Russian counterpart to combine the state-owned gas companies of both countries if they are treated as equals.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told a Kyiv news conference his Russian counterpart's idea to unite Gazprom and Naftogaz deserves attention.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin presented the proposal during a news conference Friday in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

Mr. Putin says the two government leaders discussed integration of their nuclear industries.  He adds that Russia is prepared to do the same in the gas sector and offers to unite Gazprom and Naftogaz.

With that 12-second statement, the Russian prime minister shut off his microphone and stood to shake Mr. Azarov's hand.  The Ukrainian official says he did not discuss the issue with Mr. Putin before it was made public.  Mr. Azarov adds there is no question about consolidating the two gas companies, if they are treated as equals.  He quotes Mr. Putin as saying Ukraine would gain access to Russian energy resources and assets.

In Kyiv, independent energy analyst Ivan Poltavets told VOA the proposal remains vague.  But he cautioned it could result in an energy monopoly that may kill Ukraine's modest domestic gas industry.

Poltavets says if Ukrainian purchases of Russian gas increase, then Ukrainian gas production will either decrease or it will need to be exported, but that will be very difficult because it would be competing with Gazprom supplies.

Russian National Energy Security Fund Director, Konstantin Simonov, says Russia's plan to build the Nord and South Stream pipelines to Europe around Ukraine applied pressure on Kyiv.  He says Ukrainian leaders did not expect those lines to be built.   But now that Nord Stream construction has begun, Ukraine, according to Simonov, has been forced to deal with Mr. Putin on his terms.  Nord Stream will begin carrying gas in 2011 from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany.  From there, it will be distributed to other western European countries.

Simonov says no one is prepared to invest in the Ukrainian gas pipeline system, adding the European Union has distanced itself from Ukraine.  The analyst says the E.U. concern is to get fuel, not whether supplies get to its borders over, through or around Ukraine.  He says the issue of gas transit is for Ukraine and Russia to figure out, and claims Ukraine has no allies or alternatives.

Ukraine's aging pipeline system is in need of repairs and the country's previous leaders firmly resisted Russian attempts to gain control over it.  Konstantin Simonov says such control would spare Moscow the expense of building South Stream under the Black Sea.

Simonov asks why such an expensive pipeline is needed if Russians can get a guaranteed gas transport corridor, which would be their property and their responsibility.  He says gas wars would become impossible, and if there are supply disruptions, they would be Gazprom's responsibility, because it will own the pipeline.

Europe gets about 20 percent of its natural gas from Russia through Ukrainian pipelines.  Bitter pricing disputes in recent years between Moscow and Kyiv resulted in mid-winter gas shutoffs to European homes, hospitals, and industry.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has condemned the proposed gas company consolidation as part of a large-scale Russian plan to eliminate Ukrainian independence.  Former President Viktor Yushchenko also considers it a threat to independence that would allow a gas monopoly to dictate terms to Ukrainian consumers.

Ivan Poltavets says both politicians were considered energy sector reformers in 2000 when Mr. Yushchenko was prime minister and Ms. Tymoshenko served as his deputy.  But the analyst says they allowed energy problems to accumulate when they assumed the country's top positions in 2005.  He says those problems include wasteful use of supplies.

Poltavets says Ukrainian politicians do not focus on saving resources or at least reducing consumption, but talk instead about the need to get greater and perhaps cheaper supplies of gas.  This, says Poltavets, is the wrong political emphasis.

Analysts say higher energy prices would force efficiency, but populist politicians refuse to raise them for fear of losing elections.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych recently secured a 30-percent reduction in the price of Russian gas imports for 10 years in exchange for an extension of the lease allowing Russia's Black Sea Fleet to remain in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol through 2042.  The Ukrainian parliament ratified the agreement without debate, which sparked an egg-throwing brawl last week by lawmakers opposed to the deal.  

Critics argue the agreement violates a constitutional ban of foreign military bases on Ukrainian territory, and also represents a bad energy deal for Ukraine.

Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller says Russia and Ukraine will discuss gas consolidation in Moscow after World War Two Victory Day celebrations on May 9.  There are no details about what either side plans to negotiate.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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