Sunday, 14 August 2011

Russia, Ukraine ‘Heading For New Gas Conflict’

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia warned neighbour Ukraine yesterday against acting unreasonably amid reports that the two sides were approaching a gas war similar to a 2009 standoff that briefly cut supplies to EU states.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych held a summit in Sochi on Thursday aimed at easing tensions that have grown over the last months over gas prices and Ukrainian moves to promote EU ties.

But the meeting ended with a conspicuous lack of any statement beyond formal protocol and a source in the Kremlin told Russian news agencies yesterday that Ukraine was acting out of line.

The official accused Kiev of trying to politicise the gas dispute and flatly rejected the idea of Ukraine getting special privileges instead of formally joining an economic union Russia has formed with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

“The Russian side underscored the need to follow the existing agreement on gas cooperation and not to politicise the issue,” the unnamed Kremlin source said.

The official added that Ukraine could only join the Russian-led customs union “as a full-fledged participant” and not as a special member who could also negotiate special trade terms with the European Union.

Sources and Russian press reports said Medvedev’s talks with Yanukovych were originally supposed to have taken place on July 31 in Ukraine but the Kremlin scrapped the visit due to the tensions.

The last gas conflict ended when Ukraine in 2009 signed a 10-year gas supply contract with Russia’s Gazprom that it is now trying to re-negotiate because it is being charged more than some richer European states.

An official in Kiev firmly told the Kommersant business daily: “We are morally preparing for a possible repeat of the gas war.”

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