Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has said that the agreement on the transit and trade of natural gas between Russia and Ukraine should be annulled, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should be summoned to testify in Kiev.
Yushchenko was speaking as a witness at the ongoing trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is accused of causing damages to the country’s economy by signing gas contracts with Russia in 2009.
“It is necessary to undertake the work to annul this agreement,” the Ukrainian media quoted Yushchenko as saying. “I am confident that the Moscow agreement will not last long,” he added.
The former president also said that the court should summon and question Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the CEO of the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom Aleksey Miller.
However, the court is not currently considering the option of summoning Putin or Miller as witnesses. “We have no plans to make such a request. No representatives from the Russian side have been included on the list of witnesses,” Prosecutor Mikhail Shorin told the press during a court recess. Defense lawyer Yuriy Sukhov said he had not ruled out sending such a request, but added that if the defense chooses to do so, it will be done at a later stage in the process.
Yushchenko said he had nothing to do with the company that conducts gas trading on the Ukrainian side – RosUkrEnergo. He also said that in his view, RusUkrEnergo was a daughter company of Gazprom and thus fully complied with Gazprom’s policies. “As president, I had no relation to the company’s foundation either in 2004 or later on,” Yushchenko said. He again told the court that as president, he was responsible for the general political course and not for the technical details of business contracts. This statement was a reply to Yulia Tymoshenko’s earlier claim that Yushchenko was to blame for the failure of the initial talks in 2009 as he tried to keep RosUkrEnergo, which Tymoshenko called a shadowy, criminal and corrupt intermediary who was party to the deal.
Ukrainian prosecutors accuse Tymoshenko of abuse of power when she signed a gas deal with Russia that allegedly inflicted material damage to her own country. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. On August 5 the judge presiding over her case ordered the arrest of Tymoshenko as a result of what he claimed were her numerous attempts to disrupt the court proceedings and influence the witnesses.
Many experts suggest, however, that Tymoshenko’s trial is simply the result of the Ukrainian authorities’ attempt to reconsider its gas deals with Russia. Tymoshenko was arrested less than a week before the meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents in Sochi, where the two leaders tried to reach an agreement on the gas issue but failed to do so.Some analysts, such as the director of the Kiev Institute of Management Problems, Vladimir Fesenko say that the Ukrainian side could take Russia to the international arbitration court and use the materials from Tymoshenko’s proceedings there, while others suggest that the case will only be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Russia.
After Tymoshenko’s arrest in early August, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement which stressed that the gas agreements of 2009 were reached in accordance with the two countries’ laws and called on the court to exercise justice and impartiality in considering the former prime minister’s case.The European Union and the United States have also criticized Tymoshenko’s trial as being politically motivated.