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    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Gazprom weighs in on Ukraine power struggle

    With voting still going on in Ukraine - and results close between those who support the Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovich's bid to remain prime minister and those likely to pick the pro-Western, pro-NATO Yulia Tymoshenko - the Kremlin has predictably sent the energy giant Gazprom into the fray.

    (With the last results trickling in, Yanukovich's Party of Regions led with just over 34 per cent of the vote, with potential coalition allies the Communists and the Lytvyn bloc together pulling in about another 10 per cent. Tymoshenko had just under 31 per cent, with President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine movement, which has said it will back her as premier, receiving 14 per cent of the vote. The evolving dead heat can be viewed in a handy little graph on the main page of the Ukrainska Pravda website. A key remaining question is whether the Socialist Party of Aleksandr Moroz will cross the 3 per cent threshold needed to win seats in the Rada. If he does, that likely puts Yanukovich over the top.)

    In what looks a lot like an attempt to influence the coming fight over who will be PM, Gazprom - which provides nearly all the natural gas used in Ukraine - yesterday to reduce supplies if by the end of the month it didn't receive some $1.3 billion it claims it's owed by the Ukrainian government. While Gazprom's business case may be entirely justified, the company has long coordinated its goals with the Kremlin (unsurprising, given that deputy prime minister and potential Putin successor Dmitriy Medvedev is Gazprom's chairman).

    Gazprom, of course, denied that it's statement had anything to do with the election, but it looks a lot like 2006 all over again. Back then, Gazprom briefly switched off the gas right in the middle of another parliamentary election campaign, reminding Ukrainian voters that severing ties with Moscow came with a cost. Many credit the Gazprom cutoff with helping propel Yanukovich's unlikely political comeback after the disaster of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

    Volodymyr Bronnikov, a parliament member with the Party of the Regions, made the connection Gazprom wouldn't. If Tymoshenko is prime minister, and her goal is to move Ukraine away from Russia and towards the West, then Russia is justified in charging Ukraine the same price for natural gas that it does other European countries, he said yesterday. (Ukraine, like most other former Soviet republics, currently receives discounted supplies from Gazprom, a holdover from the days of the USSR.)

    "If Ukraine is an ordinary European country, then it must pay ordinary European prices for gas," Bronnikov was quoted as saying by The Moscow Times.

    This one looks like a warning shot, intended this time for President Yushchenko himself. The message seems clear: make a grand coalition with Yanukovich (something one Ukrainska Pravda report suggested he was considering), and the last two years of your presidency will go relatively smoothly in terms of relations between Ukraine and its larger neighbour to the east. Put Tymoshenko back in power and the Kremlin will make sure it's a cold winter in Kyiv.


    La Russophobe said...

    The follow-up to this story is that Tymoshenko has already resolved Gazporom's pathetic threat, arranging to pay the balance due.

    A few points are missing:

    (a) Tymoshenko is intolerable to the Kremlin not only because she's a democrat and pro-West but also because she's a woman. Russia is a rigidly sexist society and the idea of women coming to power threatens the male-dominated Kremlin almost as much as the idea of pro-west democrats. What's more, Tymoshenko is a glamorous, charismatic leader who can lead Ukraine into a new era. That's the Kremlin's worst nightmare.

    (b) Russia has been sucking the blood out of Ukraine like a vampire for decades, including the infliction of mass genocide for which it has paid no reparations. The idea that Ukraine "owes" Russia money is a fallacy. It's Russia that owes Ukraine.

    (c)Russia's hypocrisy in attempting to dictate internal Ukrainian affairs is jaw-droppingly amazing given Russia's adamant claims that the West not attempt to influence Russia's internal affairs. It's neo-Soviet in character, an indication of an essentially barbaric attitude that Russia cannot survive for long.

    (d) The failure of the West to rally to Ukraine's aid when faced with this outrageous provocation is shameful. We need to do a much better job of learning from history ourselves. Today Ukraine, tomorrow Czechoslovakia . . .

    Anonymous said...

    With some credibility, a number of analysts believe that Tymoshenko likely made a nice chunk of change for herself by taking profits away from Russian companies involved with fossil fuel. Hence the "Gas Princess" tag on her.

    The Russian government recently had two women appointed to high level positions. The political leader of Russia's second largest city is a woman.

    The "mass genocide" in Ukraine involved many non-Russians and a good number of Ukrainians.

    Anonymous said...

    Phoby, phoby, phoby. Countries that pay their bills have no trouble with Gazprom.

    And about that "Ukrainian genocide" notion, if it really was intentional, why did the Soviet government take the Red Army's grain reserves and distribute them for famine relief?