The EU is watching the latest gas dispute in Ukraine with concern, despite an apparent easing of the threat to western supplies. Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has now been paid for February’s deliveries.
Earlier Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had warned that unless Ukraine settled the bill the taps would be turned off. He said although the situation arose from an internal Ukrainian affair it could have consequences for supplies to the country and western Europe. The threat to the gas flow stems from an ongoing power struggle between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. In January she signed a deal to end a gas dispute with Russia that had caused shortages in western Europe. The contract was criticised as too costly by Yushchenko and has since been the subject of a criminal investigation. Tymoshenko today branded that inquiry unconstitutional and accused prosecutors of being politically motivated. As part of the investigation the headquarters of Ukraine’s state energy company was raided by agents. Naftogaz said documents required to make this month’s payment had been seized. That transaction has now reportedly taken place, and while it may allay western fears of gas shortages, it has heightened concerns about Ukraine’s fraught political situation.