Gas agts with RF economically, politically detrimental to Ukraine

KIEV, August 18 (Itar-Tass) —— Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has never approved of the gas agreements made with Russia in 2009 because they are “economically and politically detrimental to Ukraine”, his Press Secretary Irina Vannikova said.

Yushchenko appeared in court on Wednesday, August 17, to testify in the “gas case” of ex-Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party leader Yulia Timoshenko.

According to Vannikova, Yushchenko is seeking to “find arguments for cancelling these agreements”.

“As president and professional economist, Yushchenko has never given a positive assessment to the gas agreements of 2009 because they are economically and politically detrimental to Ukraine,” Vannikova said.

“The negative assessment by Viktor Yushchenko of the gas agreements made by the ex-prime minister in January 2009 does not mean that he supports unlawful actions of the authorities against Timoshenko, particularly her arrest pending the court verdict,” the press secretary said.

Yushchenko has “many times warned the present authorities against using court for political purposes and for replacing justice with political repressions against opponents,” Vannikova said.

“Like millions of Ukrainians, the ex-president demands that the authorities ensure a public and impartial investigation of all high-profile cases,” she added.

In his testimony in court, Yushchenko urged the Ukrainian authorities to cancel the gas agreements with Russia.

He said that when drafting the agreements, Timoshenko had concealed the price of the Russian gas for 2009 from both him and the Ukrainian parliament.

Yushchenko also believes that there was some political motivation behind the gas contracts, which is why Timoshenko did not want to make the documents public.

He also suggested that the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller be brought into the case as witnesses.

Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko was questioned in court earlier for about three hours. He believes that Timoshenko had no right to issue directives for talks between Naftogaz Ukrainy and Russia’s Gazprom without the consent of the government.

“When it comes to vital needs and interests of the state, the prime minister cannot make decisions alone without collegiate approval as legislation requires,” Grishchenko said.

The court also questioned former Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Prodan, who said that Timoshenko had not tried to pass her directives for gas talks with Russia for the government’s decision.

“I took this as an instruction from the prime minister, subject to execution. There was no practice of getting directives approved by the government,” he said.

According to Prodan, the talks in 2009 had produced the best possible price for gas, and the government could not raise tariffs for the transit of Russian natural gas because Russia insisted the rates were fixed until 2011.

Batkivshchina deputy chairman Alexander Turchinov testified earlier in court to say that none of the ministers had spoken against the gas agreements with Russia in 2009.

He recalled that after the signing of the agreements, Timoshenko briefed members of the government on the results of the talks with Russia.

“The government approved the agreements reached in Moscow,” Turchinov said.

Timoshenko is facing charges of abuse of office while making gas agreements with Russia in 2009.

The prosecution has accused Timoshenko of acting in excess of her powers and giving directives for signing a gas contract with Russia in 2009 without the government’s consent. As a result, gas prices in Ukraine increased, but the tariff for transit, pegged to the price of gas, did not change, which caused damage to the budget in the amount of about 200 million U.S. dollars.

On January 19, 2009, Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz Ukrainy signed new long-term contracts for the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe through Ukraine and for gas supplies to Ukrainian consumers. The contracts allow no intermediaries between the two companies.

The transit contract preserved the low rate of 1.7 U.S. dollars for the transit of 1,000 cubic metres of gas for 100 kilometres in 2009. Since January 1, 2010, the transit rate is calculated using the generally accepted European formula.

According to the gas supply contract, the price of gas supplied to Ukraine is calculated using the European pricing formula with a decreasing coefficient of 0.8 (base price is 450 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic metres). The price changes on a quarterly basis. Since January 1, 2010, Gazprom has been selling gas to Ukraine at a market European price without discounts.

Naftogaz said that the transition to the formula-based calculations had been effective since January 19, 2009 under a transit contract with Russia’s Gazprom.

Timoshenko confirmed that tariffs for the transit of Russian natural gas through Ukraine in 2010 would grow by 50-80 percent.

The price of gas transit and its storage has to be determined on a quarterly basis under the bilateral contract. “The price of transit for Russian gas through Ukraine will be determined by a formula. Based on this formula, without signing any additional documents, the price of transit will be much higher than today, by 50-80 percent according to different estimates,” Timoshenko said.

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