Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with his Ukrainian
counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko in Moscow on Saturday to discuss
controversial economic and military issues that have raised tensions
between their two countries. Mr. Putin warned that resolution of these
issues could impose various costs on Ukraine, not only in terms of
higher energy prices, but also the possible loss of lucrative contracts
with Russia's security and space industries. But as Emma Stickgold
reports for the VOA from Moscow, Kyiv is seeking to minimize those
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Saturday that
Russian leaders would like to slowly increase gas prices for Ukraine
closer to the higher rate encountered by its European neighbors. But
some Central Asian suppliers are encouraging Moscow to do so starting
in January of 2009.
Mr. Putin says Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan, who deliver natural gas to Ukraine via pipelines through
Russia, are to blame for the possible increase. The CEO of Gazprom,
Alexei Miller, has said Ukraine will likely face more than double its
current rates, going from the $179 per cubic meter to more than $400.
Tymoshenko told Ukrainian's One-plus-One television station that the
two leaders agreed Russia would raise Ukraine's price to European
levels over three-to-four years. There is no immediate confirmation of
that from the Russian government.
Natural gas has been a
contentious issue between the two countries, with Russia having reduced
or cut off Ukraine's gas supply on a number of occasions in recent
The Russian head of government praised Ukraine for
being debt free when it comes to current gas bills for the first time
in many years.
Mr. Putin says Ukraine has debts from previous
years, and both sides are still searching for a solution to this issue.
However, there are no debts for the current bills, which he says is a
good result of the work of the current Ukrainian government and a good
condition for moving forward in resolving gas-related issues.
his attention to Ukraine's possible membership in the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization, Mr. Putin said Russia would terminate its military
and other contracts with Ukrainian weapons and space facilities that
depend on Moscow, if Ukraine joins the Western defense alliance.
opposes bids by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO, and Mr. Putin says
membership in the organization would be counter-productive for
Independent Russian military analyst
Pavel Felgenhauer told VOA that efforts to recreate Ukrainian
productions lines may prove to be quite difficult.
successful will be these plans to create production lines - different
equipment and components that are being made in Ukraine today on
Russian territory - that is another question," he said. "Maybe
partially they will be successful, maybe partially not. It is not an
easy endeavor at all to simply cut off Ukraine - but the threats are
there for sure."
Another contentious issue is the disposition
of Russia's Black Sea fleet, which is stationed in Sevastopol on
Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Russia's representative to NATO, Dmitri
Rogozin, recently said Russia would never leave Sevastopol, despite a
lease agreement with Ukraine that stipulates a withdrawal in 2017.
Recently, Moscow has been seeking to extend the lease, but Ms. Tymoshenko indicates that is not likely to happen.
Ukrainian prime minister says both sides have an agreement until 2017
and her country will observe it as it does all of its other
international agreements - very accurately, and without any deviations.
Pavel Felgenhauer notes that much can happen between now and 2017.
now, there are no real plans at all of actually moving the fleet from
Crimea and its infrastructure and of course this entire issue right now
is now of course immediate," he said. "The fleet can stay until 2017,
which is quite some time away - there can be elections in Ukraine that
may bring a more pro-Moscow government to power - many things other can
Carnegie Moscow Center political analyst Sam Greene
told VOA this weekend's Putin-Tymoshenko discussions indicate much work
is needed to repair strained relations between Russia and Ukraine.
think it was clear through this weekend that these issues remain
troublesome for both sides and that neither is quite ready to make the
compromises that would be needed to really make progress in terms of
moving past these issues or working through them in some way," he said.
Greene notes there has been a change in the nature of the dialogue,
noting that a cordial tone recognizes that neither country really wants
or needs the relationship to be problematic.