On January 3, Presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine and Vladimir Voronin of Moldova announced joint steps to cope with the gas-supply crisis and appealed to the European Union to intercede with Russia in support of the Ukrainian-Moldovan position. Voronin initiated this joint demarche after Gazprom imposed a total halt on supplies to Moldova as of January 1.
Yushchenko and Voronin are asking the EU to endorse five ground rules for resumption of negotiations between their countries and Russia on gas supplies: 1) Participation of international [i.e., EU] experts in the negotiations; 2) Determining a mutually acceptable transition period for Russian-sought price hikes; 3) Using EU market methodology for price formation on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova; 4) Moratorium on prices for these countries and transit rates via these countries, pending completion of EU-assisted negotiations between the two countries and Russia; 5) Guarantees for stable transit of Russian gas via Ukraine and Moldova to European markets.
The two presidents describe the halt in Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova as a “planned scenario, using pressure and blackmail on the energy sectors, so as to undermine our countries’ economic development and destabilize the internal social situation.” Moldova additionally notes “Russia’s economic pressure is aiming to change Moldova’s policy on conflict settlement in Transnistria and on our European choice.” Both countries are ready to pay market prices for Russian gas, but they object to arbitrary prices. Ukraine will supply Moldova with certain volumes of gas from Ukraine’s own reserves; those volumes will “not be diverted illicitly from Ukraine’s transit [pipelines]” (Moldpres, January 3).
The joint crisis-management steps apparently begin with conservation. While agreeing to provide emergency relief, Yushchenko has urged Voronin to see to deep cuts in Moldova’s gas consumption, pending renegotiation of the supply agreements with Gazprom (TV Channel Five [Kyiv], January 2). Expressing appreciation for Yushchenko’s support, Voronin termed it an example of approaching energy supply issues in a spirit of European solidarity (Moldpres, January 3). In Moscow, Gazprom’s chief spokesman Sergei Kupryanov charged preemptively that any gas supplied by Ukraine to Moldova could only be gas diverted from the transit pipeline to Europe. This theory, however, does not take Ukraine’s own reserves in storage sites into account. As Voronin’s top political adviser Mark Tkachuk, points out, Moldova will draw its emergency supplies from Ukraine’s own reserves (Ekho Moskvy, January 2).