Gazprom continues to accuse Ukraine of stealing gas. Gazprom's deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said during a press
conference on Wednesday June 24, that the company will refuse to store gas,
designated for EU customers, in Ukrainian Underground Gas Storage Facilities
(UGSF) because Ukraine had stolen 8 billion cubic meters of gas during last winter.
This is a highly surprising claim because Ukraine has not stored Gazprom's gas in recent years, due to an agreement made in 2006. Instead, it stored gas from RUE and Haftogas, which was subsequently sold to Gazprom, after being removed from UGSF and measured at gas metering stations at Ukraine's border with the EU, according to the operating contract.
So what induces Gazprom to make these claims? There are two reasons:
- During recent EU-Ukraine
talks, the possibility of buying Russian gas and storing it in Ukrainian UGSFs
was raised and was supported by some EU officials. Certainly, European gas
companies would hesitate to make deals if these would negatively affect their
relations with Gazprom, but with the right pressure from national
governments and European Union institutions, there is a chance for such a deal to be made. In light of these developments, Gazprom's allegations could be seen as
a warning for European gas companies not to deal with
- By preventing such a deal, Gazprom is trying to capitalize on European Union aid to Ukraine, specifically its financial support for Ukraine's purchase of gas to fill the UGSF. Given that this assistance will be provided, the money will transfer from Naftogas' accounts directly to Gazprom, leaving Ukrainian companies with credit commitments. This will increase the chance that Ukraine will default on its payment for imported gas, and thus be forced to eventually sell its assets. Gazprom is interested in these assets - particularly the gas transportation system. Simultaneously, Gazprom is not afraid that Ukraine will resell imported, paid and stored gas for much lower prices in the first months of 2010. Why is it so certain?
The efforts that Gazprom and European countries are making to prevent gas purchase and storage in Ukrainian UGSF could mean that there is actually not enough Russian gas.
Gazprom might be trying to force Ukraine
to buy additional gas in the last month of quite high gas prices on gas,
which would allow Gazprom to source it from Central Asian
In that context I would like to say, that all sides have to make steps towards each other. The European Union proclaimed the introduction of an early warning mechanism, but failed to specify this process during the Khabarovsk summit between the EU and Russia.
As an effective measure, I would like to propose a so called "European Initiative of Gas Transparency" (EIGT). It is based on the fundamental right to know about parameters of energy supplies. Under the EIGT system, each consumer has the right to know whether they are paying the economically based price, where and in what way energy monopolists spend the benefits of their market share, what role intermediaries have and how many consumers pay for this gas.
To prevent relapses of gas crises in the future, a system of measures of trust in Eurasia must be initiated. This system should cover the whole way from energy production to energy consumption. Necessary measures might be fulfilled under the auspices of the EU in the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
Mr. Andrey Chubyk works for the Center for Global Studies "Strategy XXI," a Kiyv-based think tank specializing in energy security affairs.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Jens F. Laurson & George A. Pieler: Europe Has to Get Serious About Energy
- Marek Swierczynski: Gas Dispute Puts Energy Security At Top of EU Agenda
- Andreas Umland: The EU is helping Moscow's Neo-Imperialists
- André Budick: Russia-West Partnership Hurt by Moscow's Paranoia