Ukraine Still Wary Of ‘Gas War’ Deal With Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- An agreement between Russia and Ukraine ending a recent gas price war between the two neighbours has attracted fresh criticism from analysts who doubt it holds the guarantees President Viktor Yushchenko’s government has claimed.

General view of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom gas storage facility near the town of Kasimov 330 km (198 miles) south of Moscow

A new round of secretive talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials that ended Thursday has done nothing to reassure those who fear further instability after Moscow abruptly cut supplies in a “gas war“ in January.

“The Ukrainians can’t be considered a nation – they have allowed a group of adventurers to conclude... doubtful agreements with doubtful persons,“ the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda said.

The three-day cut of gas supplies to this ex-Soviet nation at the start of January sparked debate across Europe as knock-on disruption was felt in several European countries for which Ukraine is a gas transit route.

Since then much attention has been paid here to RosUkrEnergo, a joint venture half owned by Russia’s Gazprom energy giant and half owned by Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank on behalf of unidentified investors.

Under an agreement that at least provisionally resolved last month’s stand-off, RosUkrEnergo will be responsible for all Ukraine’s gas imports from both Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asia.

But suspicions about the deal mounted as a new joint venture was set up at the latest talks in Kiev: UkrgazEnergo.

This company is jointly owned by Gazprom and Ukrainian utility Naftogaz and will be responsible for selling gas on the Ukrainian market once it has been shipped in by RosUkrEnergo.

Following Thursday’s talks, Ukrainian officials said the price agreed in January for gas imports –95 dollars per 1,000 cubic metres – would remain in force for five years.

Source: Agence France-Presse