The recent signing in Hanover of an agreement between Russian Gasprom and German BASF providing for direct, as Gerhard Schroder said, access of German companies to extraction of gas in Russia caused mixed reaction in Kiev.
"It is bad news for Ukraine," local experts note. There is also an official reaction. Vice prime-minister on euro integration Oleg Rybachuk called rumors about possible construction by Russia of a pipeline bypassing gas transportation system of Ukraine a bluff. "At present, our economy is very rational. The point is that Russia would have to make multibillion investments to bypass Ukraine, although a transit route is the shortest and the most effective one."
Nevertheless, specialists agree that the signing of the document on construction of a pipeline to transport Russian gas via Baltic Sea directly to western markets, bypassing Ukraine and Poland, is a serious problem for Kiev. First, how would Russian and German plans affect realization of projects of the new Ukrainian authorities on creation of alternative schemes of energy supplies to Europe?
Kiev got concerned with this issue along with the issue of deminishing energy threat (clearly from Moscow) right after the "orange revolution". Victor Yushchenko made it clear that he would spare no efforts to ensure that the Odessa-Brody pipeline doesn't operate in the current reverse mode, transporting Russian crude to the Ukrainian southern ports and further through Bosporus to Europe, and, instead, is used primarily to ship oil directly to Europe through Poland, and not only Russian oil but also oil from Caucasus and Central Asia.
During his visit to Poland Victor Yushchenko held talks with Alexander Kvasnevskiy regarding bringing to a close the construction of a pipeline to Plotsk and Gdansk. Apart from Poland, Ukraine also intends to invite Kazakhstan and the U.S. to participate in construction of this main. According to experts, the pipeline's reverse functioning has not turned profitable for Ukraine so far. Were there not Russian oil in the pipeline, it would have stood idle as it did in 2001-2003.
Development of events on the establishment of a long-awaited gas transportation consortium (GTC) shows that Ukraine's new authorities have no wish to count only on the eastern neighbor in setting up the GTC. If before the "orange revolution" Russia and Germany were called the only potential participants of the project, now there are also the U.S., Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran among the potential participants. Moreover, according to information leaked to the press, Deutsche Bank signed an agreement with Naftogaz of Ukraine on issuing a US $ 2 mln credit for "modernization of the gas transportation system and support of other projects." There was no information regarding the nature of those projects and time of transfer of money to Kiev.
Victor Yushchenko's recent visit to Turkmenistan and his talks with Saparmurat Niyazov are viewed as the next attempt to win possible partners in the GTC project. The president of Ukraine told journalists in Ashgabat that there was reached an agreement on Ukraine's participation in extraction of gas in Turkmenistan and that the Turkmen side guaranteed the supply of 50-70 bcm of gas.
Time will show how these and other projects of Kiev on decreasing "energy threat" that the new authorities see as coming from Russia would be realized in practice. But the first steps on diversification of energy carriers supply and certain distancing from the eastern neighbor in the name of energy security already became a matter of concern not only to those who just yesterday ardently supported the leaders of "orange colored" but also to those hundreds of thousand former Ukrainian citizens that today work at the gas fields of Tyumen and Siberia.
Many Ukrainian businessmen and politicians who think that the foreign policy pursued by the new authorities doesn't meet Ukraine's interests differ in assessing a new energy strategy of Kiev. In fact, according to the leader of the Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine, Victor Medvedchuk: "The new authorities proceed from the fact that Ukraine is part of Europe, and that is why we have to be exclusive suppliers of energy resources. The first notion is true, the second one is not. The real supplier is Russia. If Ukraine wants to take some place in Europe, it can do it only in close collaboration with Russia. Otherwise, we will undermine our authority both in the West and the East, which may result in bypassing pipelines," the politician believes.
"TRUD" (Russia), 26.04.2005