Ukraine’s energy minister is heading to Moscow for crisis talks on the price Kiev pays for Russian gas.
Russian gas giant Gazprom has threatened to cut Ukraine’s supplies altogether if terms are not agreed by January 1. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov raised the stakes before today’s talks. He said that Ukraine had the right to take 15 percent of all the gas passing through its pipeline network as payment for transit rights, and for the work carried out by thousands of people in the country. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says Russia has failed to justify demands for a more than fourfold price increase. He recently suggested Kiev could raise the annual 82 million euros in rent that Russia pays to keep its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. But yesterday he reportedly reassured his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Ukraine would abide by the treaty governing the stationing of the fleet. Gazprom is negotiating new prices with other ex-Soviet states, but Ukraine is especially sensitive as 80 percent of Gazprom’s supplies to European customers passes through the country. A company spokesman said: “Any siphoning off of gas by Ukraine after January 1, 2006 will be regarded as theft. Ukraine will be stealing from the EU which it hopes to join.”