Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he cannot deal with a natural gas dispute between Moscow and Kiev because of pending court issues.
The Ukrainian government filed a case in an international court of arbitration challenging the gas bills sent by Gazprom. In April, the Russian gas monopoly sent Ukraine an $11 billion bill for not taking enough gas in 2013 under a take-or-pay contract.
Putin said from Minsk, where he met directly with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, settling the gas issue would have to wait.
“Right now, we cannot even accept any suggestions regarding preferential terms, given that Ukraine has appealed to the arbitration court,” he said on August 27.
Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine in June because of the debt issue. The EU, which relies on Russian gas transited through Ukraine for about 15% of its needs, is trying to broker a deal between Ukraine and Russia to maintain shipments. Fuel transiting Ukraine to EU countries has so far been maintained.
During the EU-Ukraine “Eurasian troika”, which has been held in Minsk, it was agreed to resume talks on supply of Russian gas to Ukraine. On September 6, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan and EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger will hold consultations in this regard.
Oettinger was expected to travel to Moscow on August 29 for talks with Novak on a resumption of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine. Oettinger said in a statement he would make “clear that the current situation will put a strain on the energy talks as the developments are contrary to the expectations from the recent summit in Minsk”.
Oettinger added that at the talks with Novak and representatives of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, he would also make clear that “a worsening of the situation is counterproductive to a solution of the gas talks and could potentially harm long-term energy relations” with Moscow.
Russia wants to appear as a reliable gas supplier to Europe. During the Minsk meeting, Oettinger called for an interim solution for the next winter. Gas may be a door-opener for the whole high-level political process for the next weeks and months, he said.
On August 27, Novak dismissed claims by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that Gazprom is allegedly planning to halt gas transit to EU member states.
“Specific comments by Ukrainian politicians on alleged Russian intentions to stop gas transit to EU countries are puzzling. We can qualify them only as absolutely baseless speculations aimed at confusing or deliberately misinforming of European consumers of Russian gas,” Novak said.
A diplomat with knowledge of the issue told New Europe that a gas crisis is to some extent inevitable because every party on the conflict just insists on its own arguments and there is no sign of compromise between Moscow and Kiev. Ukraine put itself in such a position when actually the only agreement which is possible for Kiev would be to surrender to Moscow’s demands, the diplomat said, adding that Ukraine really needs the ongoing support of Europeans to defend its positions together with the European Union and only in such a case Ukraine will have the necessary benefits and maybe it can survive gas imports from Russia.
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