The prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine agreed Sunday to resolve their gas dispute, with an understanding that prices would be pegged to the price of oil, but with a discount for 2009 that means Ukraine could pay little more than it did last year.
By Andrew Kramer
The New York Times
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko meet for talks in Moscow early January 18, 2009.(Alexander Prokopenko/Pool/Reuters)
The deal, expected to be signed Monday, came after a din of criticism from officials in Europe, where more than 20 countries have been affected since a Jan. 6 cutoff of natural gas and at least 12 people have frozen to death in a dispute that is ostensibly over prices and transit fees, but that is also deeply entwined in post-Soviet politics.
If the agreement holds — and previous deals have not — the gas dispute would essentially end where it started in terms of prices, in what would be a baffling result considering the hardship caused by the embargo. It was unclear after the announcement when gas would start flowing back to Europe.
Europe Not Sure if Russian – Ukraine Gas Agreement Can Be Trusted
MOSCOW, (AFP) – Russia and Ukraine were set to finalise a deal on Monday to get natural gas flowing again, but the European Union remained sceptical about an imminent end to its worst-ever gas crisis.
Millions of Europeans have been left shivering without heat in winter after gas supplies were turned off due to a bitter dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbours.
The details of an accord reached by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko on Sunday were to be worked out by the two countries’ state gas companies, Gazprom and Naftogaz.
In a joint appearance Sunday to announce their agreement after marathon late-night talks, Putin said gas flows to Europe would resume “shortly” while Tymoshenko said the two companies had until Monday to draw up the agreements.
A spokeswoman for Tymoshenko said she intended to return to Moscow on Monday for the signing ceremony.
The EU cautiously welcomed Sunday’s agreement but said the real test was whether gas would start flowing again.
“We welcome the announcement of a political accord, but we are quite cautious because there have been too many broken accords and promises not kept,” a spokesman for the Czech presidency of the EU said in a statement.
In televised comments, Czech Industry Minister Martin Riman said he was only “slightly optimistic” about the deal.
“If the deliveries don’t resume despite such strong declarations by the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers, there will be a total crash in the confidence of EU consumers, citizens and the enterprise,” he added.