Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Holubchenko complained yesterday that “Russia’s very severe limitations on the transit of Kazakh oil through its territory” are thwarting Ukrainian plans to import oil from Kazakhstan. Holubchenko spoke in Astana both at a meeting with Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev and during a session of the Ukraine-Kazakhstan intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. His proposals envisage deliveries of Kazakh oil to Ukraine via Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Black Sea. Ukraine would compensate part of the deliveries by turning over the majority stock in Lysychansk, its flagship oil refinery, to Kazakhstan. This offer is significant because Kyiv has long resisted–even when President Leonid Kuchma occasionally wavered–Russian attempts to acquire equity in Lysychansk.
Kyiv further proposes to transit Kazakh oil to Central Europe through the planned Odessa-Brody pipeline, which route would continue into Poland to the Baltic Sea. Ukraine, with Polish support, has already presented this plan to Azerbaijan. It now seeks to include Kazakh oil as a means of increasing the transit volumes and thus the commercial attractiveness of the project. Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko, who authorized these proposals, invited Balgimbaev to visit Ukraine in early December for detailed discussions (Ukrainian agencies, November 11).
The proposals form part of Ukraine’s long-standing efforts, thus far unsuccessful, to reduce its dependence on Russian fuel supplies. Russia’s obstruction of Kazakh oil transit to Ukraine has a parallel in the blockage of Turkmen gas exports to Ukraine through Russian territory. The twin policies are designed both to eliminate Russia’s competitors from the market and to retain a potential political leverage over Ukraine. –VS
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