Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Gas issue: Purely a question of economic commitments

Far from being a political tool used by Moscow to gain points, the entire question of gas supply to Ukraine is purely and simply a consequence of the incapacity of the Ukrainian government to take adequate decisions and honour its commitments. The European Union’s supplies have been cut by Ukraine, not Russia.

Presidents Dmitry Medvedev (Russian Federation) and Viktor Yushchenko (Ukraine) held a telephone conversation yesterday at the request of the latter party regarding the question of gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine, an issue which affects many E U countries caught in the depth of a cold snap.

In his address to his Ukrainian counterpart, President Medvedev stressed the following six precepts:

Firtly, “the issue of supplying gas to European consumers and gas relations between Russia and Ukraine is not political. For Russia, this is a matter of fulfilment of economic commitments”. The one who is trying to use this issue to score political points against Moscow is the Ukraine, which is illegally withholding supplies to the EU;

Secondly, Russia remains open to resume negotiations with Ukraine at any time. The ball is in Kiev’s court: all President Yushchenko has to do is to instruct his team to return to the negotiating table;

Thirdly, being a country whose Constitution and modus operandi is based upon the rule of law and not of the jungle, the Russian Federation needs to base agreements to provide supplies on a properly drawn-up contract, not some half-witted promise scribbled on a piece of toffee paper. Moscow insists that any agreement to resume supplies must be based upon a contract signed between OJSC Gazprom and NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine. In this contract, there should be the proper provisions for supply, pricing and payment, as would be the norm in any such contract signed between two parties anywhere else in the world. Why does Ukraine not sign this contract?

Fourthly, why has the Ukraine purposefully and illegally withheld gas supplies to Russia’s EU partners? This is not the first time that the Ukraine has breached international agreements just so as to make Russia look bad in the eyes of the rest of Europe, which should, if it wants to blame anyone, make an effort to find out facts before making ludicrous claims against Russia.

Fifth, why does the Ukraine not pay its debts to Russia? It is all very well to embrace a nice western-style market economy, the type that is now in utter turmoil, but when it comes to paying, Kiev seems to have a problem. Why should Russian commodities come bezplatno?

Finally, why has the western press not reported that Russia has been insisting on and trying to arrange a meeting between the two sides for a medium-term agreement to be reached after a proper and mature process of negotiation among representatives of the gas companies, the energy authorities, EU observers and representatives from recognised international law firms?

Once again, Moscow has right and reason on its side but is expected by the international community to play the fall guy. The solution is perfectly simple. If Ukraine wants to adopt a market economy, then it should pay market prices. If Ukraine does not want to deepen ties with Russia, then let it pay the same price as its European partners to the west, that is after it settles its debts by paying what is owes and after signing a proper legal contract.

Kiev may wish to behave like a cowboy, but Moscow does not, and never has. Does the European Union?

Telephone conversation contents from Kremlin.Ru