Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 35

At a cabinet meeting on February 18, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma blasted the work of the power engineering branch of the country’s energy industry, describing it as inefficient and “criminalized.” Premier Valery Pustovoytenko said that Nur Nigmatullin, head of the national nuclear power company Energoatom, will soon be fired. Earlier in the day, some 400 employees of Ukraine’s five nuclear plants had staged a march along the streets of Kyiv and picketed the cabinet building, demanding that Nigmatullin be dismissed for failing to solve the wage arrears problem and calling for greater presidential control over the nuclear power industry. The protesters threatened a nationwide strike at the nuclear plants in early March if their demands were neglected. Nigmatullin said in a television interview that a strike at nuclear plants would have a catastrophic impact on the national economy, because almost half of Ukrainian electricity is generated at nuclear plants. The problem of wage arrears cannot be settled quickly, he said. One reason for this, he explained, is that only 2 percent of payments for energy produced at nuclear plants are made on a timely basis (Ukrainian agencies, Inter TV, STV, February 18).

Nigmatullin and Energoatom were recently involved in a dispute with Russian nuclear authorities and Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed over the cost to Ukraine of disposing of its nuclear waste in Russia. Energoatom also failed to meet its prepayment schedule with the Russian company Tvel for nuclear fuel element supplies. Nuclear power plants in Ukraine face a fuel shortage this spring (STV, February 15).

Nigmatullin’s dismissal, should it occur, will come as no surprise. In January, Kuchma fired First Deputy Premier Anatoly Holubchenko, who had supervised the energy sector. On February 10, Kuchma dismissed Energy Minister Oleksy Sheberstov, reportedly for unauthorized electricity cuts to the cash-strapped agricultural consumers (Ukrainian agencies, February 10). Bringing order to the energy sector of the economy is one of the main International Monetary Fund requirements for Ukraine’s eligibility to receive Extended Fund Facility loans.–OV

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