By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gazprom says it is resuming full shipment of gas supplies to Ukraine after agreement
Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom headquarters with a flag showing company's logo on the foreground seen in Moscow, in this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006 file picture. Russia's Gazprom state natural gas momopoly says on Wednesday, March 5, 2008, that Ukraine's oil and gas company has warned that it plans to reduce the amount of transit gas supplies to Europe. - photo by Associated Press
    MOSCOW — Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom said Wednesday it was resuming full deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine after presidents of the tense neighbors helped reach an agreement that will ease European supply concerns.
    But the agreement appeared to be little more than a stopgap deal that did not resolve divisive issues of pricing and the existence of middleman companies that Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has fiercely criticized.
    The announcement came after Gazprom — whose chairman, Dmitry Medvedev, was elected president of Russia on Sunday — cut supplies to Ukraine in half this week, saying it owed $600 million for gas already delivered this year.
    The dispute renewed fears in the European Union of reductions in supplies of gas that Russia delivers across the continent via Ukraine. Supplies reaching some European countries dropped briefly in 2006 when Russia halted deliveries to Ukraine in a bitter standoff over prices.
    Restrictions on deliveries for Ukrainian consumers have been lifted, OAO Gazprom said in a joint statement with the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz. It came after telephone negotiations involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and heads of Gazprom and Naftogaz.
    The talks produced ‘‘an agreement on the resolution of the crisis situation,’’ the statement said, adding that the movement of Russian gas across Ukraine to Europe continues in full.
    The statement said gas supplied to Ukraine in January and February would be paid for by Naftogaz in accordance with the arrangement that was in place as of the beginning of the year. Gazprom had been asking a higher price for this year’s shipments.
    But another Naftogaz spokesman, Dmytro Marunich, said the deal could still allow Russia to charge Ukraine more for some of the gas if it is determined to be of Russian origin. About one-quarter of the gas imported by Ukraine is Russian; the rest comes from Central Asia in pipelines controlled by Gazprom.
    The statement said that ‘‘questions of supplies of Russian gas will be resolved,’’ but not when or how.
    It also said that talks on other aspects of the Russian-Ukrainian gas trade would continue, suggesting there was no agreement on intermediaries.
    The gas that Ukraine imports is purchased from RosUkrEnergo, a company half-owned by Gazprom. The gas in turn is sold to UkrGazEnergo — jointly owned by Naftogaz and RosUkrEnergo — which then supplies Naftogaz.
    Critics say the arrangement is essentially a mechanism for siphoning money into private pockets. Tymoshenko, whose relations with Yushchenko are tense despite their shared Western leanings — has called for direct dealings with Gazprom.
    An agreement reached last month by Putin and Yushchenko foresaw the elimination of the intermediaries, but Gazprom President Alexei Miller later said two other middlemen operations would be created, each to be half-owned by Gazprom and Naftogaz.
    Tymoshenko insisted she wouldn’t accept intermediaries. ‘‘There will be no middlemen,’’ she said.
    Last month’s agreement between Putin and Yushchenko averted a threat by Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine over a $1.5 billion debt claim.
    But documents formalizing that agreement were not signed by Naftogaz, and Gazprom said Ukraine still owed it $600 million for gas delivered this year. Gazprom cut deliveries to Ukraine by 25 percent on Monday and another 25 percent Tuesday.
    The dispute came amid strained relations between Russia and Ukraine over Yushchenko’s drive toward NATO membership. Ukraine itself is embroiled in internal tensions between the pro-Western leadership and an opposition more sympathetic to Russia.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter