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Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Putin proposes merging Gazprom, Ukraine gas firm

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 8:38 am

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday stunned observers by proposing a merger between Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s largest gas firm, and Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz.

The surprise plan infuriated the pro-Western opposition in Ukraine in an already tense domestic political situation and risks alarming the European Union, which has warily eyed Russia’s gas expansion ambitions.

“I have made a proposal… I propose merging Gazprom and Naftogaz,” Putin said following talks in the southern city of Sochi with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Putin’s announcement, broadcast on state television, is the latest move to cement ties between the two countries after Ukraine’s new pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych came to power earlier this year.

Yanukovych’s defeated rival in presidential elections, Yulia Tymoshenko, swiftly denounced the plan as part of a wider Russian scheme to steal Ukraine’s post-Soviet independence.

“This proposal to merge Gazprom and Naftogaz… could be taken as a joke, if every day an extensive plan to liquidate Ukraine’s independence wasn’t taking shape before our eyes,” she said in a statement.

Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller said that negotiations on this issue would start immediately after national holidays in Russia due to be marked in the first two weeks of May.

“We are ready to examine the possibility of exchanging assets (of Gazprom and Naftogaz). In essence, this is a question of merging the two companies,” said Miller.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the proposal was “more than serious and well thought out.”

“The proposal emphasises how far the Russian side is prepared to go on the road to integration with its Ukrainian partners,” he told the RIA Novosti news agency.

The deal came days 10 days after Ukraine agreed a landmark accord to keep Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea at least until 2042 in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas exports to its neighbour.

Putin also said that export duties would be scrapped on all gas exports to Ukraine.

Naftogaz and Gazprom were at the centre of a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine in January 2009, which led to gas supplies being turned off to several EU states in the midst of a bitterly cold winter.

A quarter of the gas consumed in the European Union comes from Russia, 80 percent of which passes through Ukraine.

The deal to extend the stay of the Black Sea Fleet has already provoked howls of protest from pro-Western Ukrainian politicians, who accused Yanukovych of selling out Ukraine’s sovereignty to Russia.

Deputies also staged an unprecedented protest in the Ukrainian parliament, throwing eggs at the speaker and letting off smoke bombs as the agreement was ratified.

Analysts have said Russia is moving quickly to secure its influence over Ukraine after the departure from power of ex-president Viktor Yushchenko whose pro-Western orientation infuriated Moscow.

“Russia’s objective is to take control of the Ukrainian pipelines and they will try to do this in any way,” said Viktor Chumak of the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kiev.

“This merger will allow them to seal this control,” he added.

Gazprom grew out of the former Soviet Union’s Gas Industry Ministry and was part-privatised from 1993, though the Russian state retains a controlling stake of 50 percent. Naftogaz is 100 percent owned by the Ukrainian state.

Analysts have said that Ukraine needed the gas discount from Russia to cut its huge budget deficit and meet the International Monetary Fund’s conditions for releasing a new loan tranche.

Ukraine was hammered by the global financial crisis and Putin said Russian state bank VTB is ready to offer the country a 500 million dollar (376 million euro) loan to help its crisis-hit economy.


Source: SGGP

Russia, Ukraine presidents meet to solve gas dispute

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 8:31 am

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits Ukraine Wednesday for the first time since President Viktor Yanukovych took power, hoping to boost improving ties by ending a dispute on gas prices.

Russi’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukraine’s President Vicktor Yanukovich

Medvedev and Yanukovych are to hold talks in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, barely 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Russian border, with officials trumpeting a new era in ties between Moscow and Kiev.

Russian-Ukrainian relations plunged to a post-Soviet low under Yanukovych’s predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, whose staunchly pro-Western policies riled Moscow so much that Medvedev refused to have any dealings with him.

But the election of normally pro-Kremlin Yanukovych in February led to an immediate warming of relations and officials are boasting that this is the fifth high level meeting between the two sides in just two months.

Yanukovych defeated the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution who swept to power on promises to build a new future of a prosperous Ukraine in Europe free of Russian influence that deeply troubled the Kremlin.

Yet the process has not been entirely smooth, with Yanukovych seeking to fulfill one of his election promises by pushing for Moscow to slash by a third the price Kiev pays for Russian gas imports.

An agreement may be announced in Kharkiv after officials announced last week that an accord had already been reached at a government level.

The talks are due to start at 1000 GMT with announcements expected at around 1200 GMT.

Gas remains a hugely sensitive issue between Russia and Ukraine after a row in January 2009 led to Russia turning off the taps to Ukraine, which in turn left many European countries short of gas.

The Kremlin confirmed in a statement ahead of the talks that the issue of gas supplies would be discussed as well as the status of the Russian Black Sea fleet which is based in Crimea in southern Ukraine.

The fleet’s lease runs out in 2017 and Russia is keen to ensure it stays at the strategic base after that. Yanukovych has indicated this may be possible, in contrast to the opposition of Yushchenko.

Source: SGGP

Pro-Russia rivals face-off in Ukraine presidential run-off

In World on January 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Voters in Ukraine forced two old rivals who both favour close ties with Russia into a tense presidential election run-off Monday after rejecting the pro-Western leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Almost final results showed dour pro-Moscow candidate Viktor Yanukovich had won Sunday’s first round of voting, in a stunning turnaround for the politician blamed for organising poll rigging in 2004 that sparked the Orange uprising.

But having failed to muster a majority, Yanukovich will face the second place candidate, the glamorous Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in a run-off on February 7.

In a stinging rebuke for the pro-West revolt just over five years ago, its leader, incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, was eliminated in the first round with a miserable single digit result.

With ballots from about 95 percent of polling stations counted, Yanukovich had garnered 35 percent of the vote and Tymoshenko 25 percent, the central election commission said.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister and the Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko, centre, speaks to the media at a destroyed hospital building in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010.

Third place went to businessman Sergiy Tigipko, who polled 13 percent. His electorate will now prove crucial in determining the fate of the second round.

Yushchenko meanwhile languished on five percent, in fifth place behind youthful former parliament speaker Aresniy Yatseniuk, who took fourth with seven percent.

While Tymoshenko must make up a serious deficit in the run-off, analysts have said the image-conscious prime minister could reel in the difference if she mobilises anti-Yanukovich voters.

The polls promise to be a gloves-off affair and analysts have warned of a high risk that the result will be taken to the courts, perhaps even sparking fresh street protests.

“It’s going to end up pretty close,” said Andrew Wilson, a Ukraine expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“It could end up in the courts or on the streets. Both candidates are hinting strongly at that.”

But international observers from groups including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the first-round election was of high quality and met its democratic commitments.

Whoever wins, the new president is likely to reverse Yushchenko’s anti-Moscow line.

Tymoshenko, famed for her peasant-style blond hair braid, was a leader of the Orange Revolution along with Yushchenko, but has since played up her close ties to Russian strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

While Yanukovich has long been seen as a Kremlin favourite, he has sought to reinvent himself with the help of Western public relations strategists and to present himself as a defender of Ukrainian interests.

“Yanukovich never distanced himself from the fraud of 2004,” said Nico Lange of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Kiev. “But my impression is that the Yanukovich of 2010 is different to the Yanukovich of 2004.”

The 2004 Orange Revolution swept Yushchenko to power in a re-run of the rigged poll and raised hopes of a new era free of Kremlin influence for the country of 46 million that would set a precedent for other ex-Soviet states.

Russia gains as Ukraine awakes from Orange dream

Though Ukraine now boasts improved freedom of speech, steps to implement reform and end corruption were forgotten as government became paralysed in a bitter power struggle between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

As in previous votes, Sunday’s election showed Ukraine to be a divided nation with the industrial and largely Russian-speaking east of the country backing Yanukovich and the Ukrainian-speaking west going for Tymoshenko.

Yanukovich polled a crushing 76 percent of the vote in his eastern regional stronghold of Donetsk but could manage a mere six percent in the Lviv region close to the Polish border, the results showed.

The candidates’ shady pasts were once again dredged up in the bitter election campaign.

Yanukovich was jailed twice in the Soviet era for theft and assault, though the convictions were erased in the late 1970s. Tymoshenko herself was briefly detained in 2001 on smuggling charges that were later quashed.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Ukraine vote heads for tense run-off

In World on January 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich won the first round of presidential elections in Ukraine and was set to head for a nail-biting runoff with Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko who came in second, results showed with half the votes counted Monday.

Ukrainian opposition leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych speaks to the media during his news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. (AFP Photo)

Yanukovich was about 12 points ahead of Timoshenko with 36.86 percent to her 24.31 percent, according to the results after 50.31 percent of the votes had been counted.

Third place went to ex-banker Sergiy Tigipko who had around 13 percent.

Discredited Orange Revolution hero President Viktor Yushchenko was eliminated after coming in fifth with a mere 4.87 percent of the vote.

Yanukovich was the man accused of rigging 2004 elections which sparked the Orange Revolution uprising that swept the old order from power.

Tymoshenko, a former Orange Revolution comrade of Yushchenko, subsequently fell out with the president and adopted a more pragmatic tone on relations with Russia.

As Yanukovich failed to win a majority in Sunday’s first round, the election will go to a second round on February 7 with all to play for between the two old foes who have savaged each other’s reputation in the campaign.

Yushchenko’s miserable score was a reflection of Ukraine’s frustration that the Orange Revolution failed to realise the dreams of those who protested in 2004.

Turnout was 66.68 percent, the central electoral commission said.

Related article: Row over Georgian ‘observers’ inflames Ukraine vote

“If Tymoshenko is less than 10 percent behind then her chances of winning in the second round climb sharply,” said analyst Igor Zhdanov of the Open Policy think tank.

Businessman Tigipko made a late campaign surge and his electorate will now prove crucial in determining the second round outcome, as the two frontrunners bare their teeth.

“Yanukovich, who represents criminal circles, has no chance” in the second round, said the prime minister at her post-election news conference, resplendent in a pure white costume.

Her opponent snapped back that Ukrainians had voted for change and said that Tymoshenko was “in despair”.

The second round promises to be a gloves-off affair and analysts have warned of the risk of the result being taken to the courts and even once more sparking street protests.

The bitter campaign has already seen the shady pasts of the candidates once again dredged up.

Yanukovich was jailed twice in the Soviet era for theft and assault, though the convictions were erased in the late 1970s. Tymoshenko herself was briefly detained in 2001 on smuggling charges that were later quashed.

The 2004 Orange Revolution raised hopes of a new era free of Kremlin influence for the country of 46 million that would set a precedent for other former Soviet states.

Related article: Ukrainians brave snow, cynicism to vote

But although Ukraine now boasts improved freedom of speech, steps to implement reform and end corruption were forgotten as government became paralysed in a bitter power struggle between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, famed for her peasant-style blonde hair braid, is seen as more in favour of EU integration than Yanukovich but has also played up her close ties to Russian strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Since 2004, Yanukovich has sought to reinvent himself with the help of Western PR strategists and to show he is not a servant of the Kremlin but a defender of Ukrainian interests.

He has also sought more support in the country’s Ukrainian-speaking west — traditionally the heartland of Tymoshenko and Yushchenko supporters — while holding on to his powerbase in the Russian-speaking east.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Russian oil transit through Ukraine to continue

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

Russian oil shipments to Europe through Ukraine will continue without disruption as the two countries renegotiate their transit agreement, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Tuesday.

“We expect that there will be no problems with the transit,” Sechin was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Ukraine said Monday it wanted to change the terms of the deal, signed in 2004, under which Russia ships oil through Ukrainian territory to the EU.

Ukraine had sought and obtained an increase in the tariffs Russia pays to transit its oil through Ukrainian pipelines, but the two sides had still not agreed on how much oil — subject to those tariffs — Russia would “guarantee” to pump through Ukraine, officials said.

File photo of a Russian oil well outside Nefteyugansk, western Siberia

Sechin said Russia was still negotiating with Ukraine on the final terms of the new deal.

Disputes between Russia and Ukraine on pricing and transit of Russian natural gas shipped to EU clients have caused serious supply disruptions in recent years, but Ukrainian officials gave assurances that transit would continue even if talks were not concluded by the end of the year.

EU sources in Brussels also played down fears of another looming energy dispute between Russia and Ukraine that could have an impact on EU energy supplies.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Russia, Ukraine reach gas compromise deal: Putin

In World on November 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced late Thursday a compromise deal with Ukraine on the thorny issue of gas supply, lessening the threat of multibillion-dollar fines that might cripple Ukraine’s economy.

Speaking after several hours of talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko, he said Russia had agreed to allow Ukraine to buy less gas next year and it would now be up to the two countries’ energy companies to put that agreement in writing.

Gazprom and Naftogaz will agree on new volumes,” Putin said, referring to the two countries’ energy firms after talks.

“We deemed it possible to meet Ukraine halfway and tweak several of our earlier agreements,” Putin said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Moscow in April 2009.

Earlier this year, Russia also agreed to reduce the volume of gas Kiev must acquire this year without imposing fines. That agreement however has yet to be put in writing.

Ukraine’s Naftogaz has said it is meant to buy 52 billion cubic metres of Russian gas next year but may only need 27 bcm.

It could have faced potentially crippling multibillion-dollar fines if it did not pay for all the gas it had contracted.

Russia has repeatedly warned of Ukraine’s financial problems in the past weeks.

Putin also said Moscow agreed with Kiev’s decision to boost the tariffs Russia pays for the transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine by 60 percent from next year.

The two premiers took pains to allay fears in Europe where officials are concerned that a new gas dispute between the two ex-Soviet nations would lead to a new cut in energy supplies.

Both Putin and Tymoshenko stressed that their countries would fully meet their obligations.

“I sincerely hope that all the agreements that have been previously reached will be implemented,” Putin said. “It would be good to meet the New Year without any calamities.”

Tymoshenko played down the prospect of gas disruptions, saying: “We will very carefully and precisely carry out our functions of transit of Russian gas.”

“Ukraine pays and will pay on time” for Russian gas, she said at the talks.

In January, a row between the two countries resulted in Russian gas being cut to much of Europe for two weeks amid freezing temperatures.

Earlier in the day Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko warned Russian gas supplies to Europe are under threat. He said in a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that current gas contracts between Moscow and Kiev had to be revised.

“Potential risks will appear for the security of gas deliveries to Ukraine and its transit to other European countries,” he said ahead of the talks.

While relations between Russia and the pro-Western Yushchenko have reached crisis point, Putin and Tymoshenko have boasted of their cordial relationship.

The meeting in Yalta was also a chance for Putin and Tymoshenko to flaunt their strong relations ahead of presidential polls in Ukraine in January in which the Ukrainian premier is a frontrunner.

Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said ahead of the meeting that Putin and Tymoshenko would most likely discuss the presidential vote, set for January 17, even though the issue was not on the official agenda.

In the polls, Tymoshenko will compete with Yushchenko and more pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich, whom Russia supported during the 2004 election.

The talks were held at the Livadia Palace in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, the venue for the 1945 conference where the Big Three, Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, redrew the postwar map of Europe.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Slovenia, Ukraine sense World Cup chance

In Vietnam Sports on November 15, 2009 at 2:34 pm

PARIS, Nov 14, 2009 (AFP) – Unheralded Slovenia and Ukraine took tentative steps closer to the 2010 World Cup finals on Saturday.

Despite losing 2-1 to Russia in Moscow, Nejc Pecnik’s goal two minutes from time gave Slovenia hope that they can make sure of a second World Cup appearance in Wednesday’s return leg of their qualifying play-off.

Slovenia’s coach Matjaz Kek (R) reacts during their Russia vs Slovenia football World Cup 2010 first leg play-off match in Moscow on November 14, 2009 . Russia won 2-1. AFP PHOTO

Ukraine, who were quarter-finalists in 2006, will also be confident of achieving back-to-back World Cup spots, after holding 2004 European champions Greece to a 0-0 draw in Athens.

Later Saturday, Ireland were taking on 1998 champions, and 2006 runners-up, France in Dublin in the first leg of their play-off, while Portugal, playing without Cristiano Ronaldo, were entertaining Bosnia-Herzegovina in Lisbon.

In Moscow, Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice for Guus Hiddink’s Russian side before Pecnik’s late lifeline.

“It’s always disappointing when you allow your rivals to score a goal at the very end but we can only blame only ourselves for it,” said Hiddink.

“We had plenty of chances to increase our lead but missed them, while Slovenia converted one of their rare chances into a goal. But I believe we will score in the away match and clinch a place in the World Cup finals.”

Bilyaletdinov opened the scoring in the 40th minute after being set-up by Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko on the edge of the box.

Spurred on by a capacity 70,000 home crowd, Bilyaletdinov made it 2-0 in the 51st minute, scoring from eight metres after Andrei Arshavin’s short cross.

But Russia, under the watchful gaze of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, were stunned in the 88th minute when Pecnik headed home after goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev could only parry Robert Koren’s powerful shot.

Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said he was disappointed with the result but added his team still had a great chances to qualify for the finals.

“I’m unhappy with the result but it’s better to be wounded than dead,” Kek said.

“This defeat leaves us chances to qualify for the finals. The last minutes tonight proved we still have spirit to win. I’m confident that at home we will have luck on our side.”

Greece and Ukraine played out a 0-0 stalemate at Athens Olympic Stadium watched by 50,000 spectators with Greek striker Giorgos Samaras and Ukraine’s Taras Mikhalik wasting second-half chances.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel tried to take positives from the lacklustre match.

“When you can’t win, the best result is not to let them score and this is what we did. The result also gives us chances in the second leg,” he said.

Ukraine coach Alexei Mikhailichenko refused to accept that his team were favourites reach a second successive World Cup finals.

“The chances to qualify are equal for both teams. I don’t know if we need to change our tactics. We will view the video of the match and then decide what needs to be done.”

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share