Ukraine's international image declines as Russia-Ukraine gas crisis continues

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko apparently believes that blame-shifting is the best way out of the critical situation

The Ukrainian administration looks quite helpless and cumbersome two days after Russia's decision to cut gas supplies to Ukraine. Seriously poisoned with dioxin, albeit still full of energy, Viktor Yushchenko was wearing an orange scarf less than a year ago and assuring the international community of Ukraine's imminent economic progress. When the Ukrainian president had to face troublesome peculiarities of market relations in the very beginning of 2006 Yushchenko decided to express his “sincere” surprise and convince Ukraine's business partners of the country's economic reliability. When Gazprom released an official statement about Ukraine stealing Russian gas from European consumers, Mr. Yushchenko said that Russia was stealing its own gas itself. Moreover, the Ukrainian president said that Russia was stealing Ukraine's gas which she was purchasing from Turkmenistan. natural gas

Ukraine's neighbors, Poland first and foremost, expressed their sympathies with the Ukrainian administration and said that it was an outrageous decision for Gazprom to make. Ukrainian politicians, however, do not seem to be ready to deal with the real state of things. When the orange revolution in Ukraine ended, it became clear that the Ukrainian government was not ready to negotiate the contracts with the Russian gas giant Gazprom.

Ukrainian Minister for Fuel and Energy, Ivan Plachkov, released another surprising statement in connection with the current gas dispute. The minister stated that Ukraine had enough of its own fuel. “Today Ukraine consumes its own natural gas from underground facilities as well as the natural gas from Turkmenistan strictly according to the signed contracts,” Plachkov said. According to the statement from Gazprom's management, however, Ukraine has not been receiving Turkmenistan's gas for several days either. According to Gazprom's contract with TurkmenNefteGaz, the Russian gas giant receives the entire export of natural gas from Turkmenistan in the first quarter of 2006.

In spite of serious fuel shortages in the country, Viktor Yushchenko said that Ukraine would help Moldova with natural gas supplies, since the latter was cut from the Russian gas pipeline too. Gazprom perceived Ukraine's intention to help Moldova as Yushchenko's willingness to sell the stolen Russian gas to the republic. President Yushchenko also said that Ukrainian consumers would not feel any problems with gas deliveries in their homes although the country has been disconnected from import gas supplies for more than a day already.

A massive action of protest is seemingly gathering steam in Ukraine. Pravda.Ru received a copy of the address from the leftist political bloc People's Opposition chaired by Natalia Vitrenko. The administration of the bloc believes that President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yenakhurov initiated the gas crisis with Russia deliberately. “It is obvious that Yushchenko was following his political goals and was not interested in the talks when the Ukrainian government sabotaged Russia's suggestion on the delay. Ukraine may pay a huge price for Yushchenko's actions. All enterprises in the south-east of Ukraine may experience production failures. Millions of Ukrainians may lose their jobs. Judging from a moral point of view, Yushchenko made Ukraine wage an undeclared war on Russia. He uses the long process of negotiations to incite anti-Russian sentiments in Ukraine. The gas dispute has become the center of attention to European politicians and businessmen. Therefore, Ukraine is undermining its international image of a transit country today too. If the gas crisis continues, it may result in the collapse of the national economic system.

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Author`s name Olga Savka