Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A new round in an old bout

7 June, 2017 - 18:31
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

After the Stockholm Court’s ruling on the gas war between Ukraine’s Naftohaz and Russia’s Gazprom, a war that involved the Ukrainian political elite, President Petro Poroshenko and Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Bloc leader Yulia Tymoshenko suddenly resumed their battle as veteran political opponents. Back in 2005, Mr. Poroshenko was Secretary of the National Defense and Security Council (RNBO) and Ms. Tymoshenko was Prime Minister. Their encounter ended in a high profile scandal that cost Ms. Tymoshenko her post. Now there seems to be another round in an old bout.

Naftohaz won the case vs. Russia in Stockholm. The court ruling granted Ukraine’s state-run company’s claim, revised the 2009 gas purchase contract, in view of the market situation, and rejected Gazprom’s claim whereby Ukraine would have to buy 52 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia annually or pay its worth, acting on a take or pay basis, regardless of the amount of gas actually needed or consumed. The court further ruled that Gazprom can’t ban Naftohaz’s gas re-exports.

Ukraine can only rejoice in this international court ruling (returning the final verdict, specifying the amounts payable/receivable, will take some time), yet the current administration has accused Yulia Tymoshenko of signing the gas accords with Vladimir Putin.

President Petro Poroshenko stated: “This take or pay principle was imposed upon Ukraine by Russia and irresponsibly accepted by the Ukrainian negotiators in 2009. As a result, millions of Ukrainians have been robbed of billions of dollars.” (president.gov.ua)

His spokesperson at the Verkhovna Rada, deputy head of PPB (Petro Poroshenko Bloc) Iryna Lutsenko declared that “the results of that gas contract led to a war and combat operations.” (tsn.ua)

PPB wants the anti-corruption authorities to check the 2009 gas contract, according to the bloc leader, Artur Herasymov: “The contract signed is more than a crime perpetrated against the Ukrainian people; it is an act made by a person who turned traitor to the national interests and almost destroyed this country. We demand that the newly established anti-corruption agencies, such as the NABU [Ukr. acronym of the National Anti-Corruption Agency of Ukraine] and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office investigate into the case forthwith and advise this Parliament on their findings within two weeks.” (pravda.com.ua)

THE POSTER READS: “THEY WON GAS WAR WITH KREMLIN” / Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

He added that the Verkhovna Rada’s committees on national security and against corruption should promptly summon Yulia Tymoshenko and hear her testimony on charges of high treason and corruption, considering her involvement in the gas contract of 2009, and make public their findings within two weeks.

Arsenii Yatseniuk, ex-Prime Minister of Ukraine, currently head of People’s Front faction in parliament, had this to say (espresso.tv): “But for this contract, we wouldn’t have to pay 500 dollars imposed on us by Russia. Without this contract, we wouldn’t sign the Kharkiv accords with that so-called discount and the deployment of the Russian fleet on the Black Sea until 2042. Without that contract, we wouldn’t be exposed to blackmail on the part of Russia. Without that contract, we wouldn’t have to suffer losses amounting to billions [of dollars]…”

Ms. Tymoshenko responded with a sharply worded statement, claiming the current administration is not telling the truth, that the take or pay principle is typical of all contracts made between the European consumers and Gazprom (ba.org.ua): “In 2011, the European Commission carried out an investigation, concerning antimonopoly cases, and its findings are crystal clear: it was a monopolist’s claim that was inadmissible in any contract. After that, all EU countries, among them Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland began to discard the take or pay principle, step by step. Ukraine has also discarded this basis and there is nothing out of the ordinary about this decision.”

Batkivshchyna’s leader went on to explain that Ukraine hasn’t paid a cent during the eight years since the signing of the gas contract on the take or pay basis, and that “the current hullabaloo is nothing but propaganda targeted against my team… Regrettably, Petro Poroshenko’s corrupt racket, along with their idle talkers and puppets on his payroll, are trying to use the Stockholm court rulings to their best advantage, to destroy our party as a political opponent.”

 Ms. Tymoshenko added that Arsenii Yatseniuk and his retinue, currently lashing out at the 2009 gas contract, were willing to join Batkivshchyna back in 2012, and that it paved Mr. Yatseniuk’s road to premiership: “I would like to ask Mr. Yatseniuk whether he was sincere when he spoke about the 2009 gas accords, that they were unlawful and corrupt. I would further ask him whether he was sincere when I was in prison and he got a seat in parliament, using the Batkivshchyna slate and cheered me when I was let out of jail.”

 She addressed Iryna Lutsenko, wife of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, currently the President’s spokesperson in parliament: “When her husband was in prison, I proposed Ms. Iryna for party membership, using our slate, in order to protect her husband and her. She became a member of parliament from Batkivshchyna. Did she believe that the 2009 gas contract had started the war in Ukraine at the time?”

 Ms. Tymoshenko said President Poroshenko could be sued on charges of overstated Rotterdam+ gas supply costs, that this made the Ukrainian in the street pay five times his usual electricity bills. She further demanded that Prime Minister Hroisman make public the statement forwarded to Stockholm: “You will see that they refer to the 2009 contract every time they claim damages inflicted by Yanukovych, but he never paid under that contract, only under corrupt agreements.”

 She pointed out that Petro Poroshenko was Minister of Economy under President Yanukovych and Prime Minister Azarov, that he had to sign every document relating to the gas prices Viktor Yanukovych had to pay: “If those prices were rigged, then Poroshenko must be brought to justice. I would be happy to see the money paid in excess of the 2009 contract by Yanukovych return to Ukraine.”

 EXPERT VIEW

Andrii NOVAK, Chairman, Committee of Economists of Ukraine:

 “This problem wouldn’t exist without Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signing that gas contract in 2009 – and she did it on a take or pay basis. Then problems came flooding in, in terms of politics and finance. It was then Ukraine became dependent on the Kremlin in terms of energy supplies. This is the trump card being played in the current domestic political game. Sad but true. However, I see it as another political show, rather than a struggle. Practically, all Ukrainian politicians have been involved, to some or other degree, and they all know what’s happening. Most have been involved in or with the Russia-Ukraine gas supply deals, making small or big fortunes for themselves, on both sides of the barricade. What this political show is all about is who can hurt the other worst, hurling most dirt, getting this dirt from the same swamp they’re all there, up to their kissers.

 “The Kremlin is trying to use this feud to its best advantage, of course, while waging its proxy war in Ukraine. Stockholm’s court rulings, including the ban on the take or pay basis, constitute a victory for Ukraine at this stage. Otherwise we’d have to pay Russia 46 billion dollars, in which case the average Ukrainian in the street would have to pay the current utility bills several times over – ditto our businesses, and this would take mind-boggling central budget appropriations to cover Naftohaz’s debts. In the end, all this would mean emptying the taxpayer’s wallet.”

 There is practically no country without a political struggle within – except that in most countries the warring parties stop when it comes to protecting the national interests. Not so in Ukraine. For our politicians, this is something committed to paper, something no one has to worry about. Over the years of our national independence, they have used every way, every means of using anyone, especially Moscow, to win their political turf wars. This is especially true of our presidents, and of the “financial-industrial groups” that supported them. Their “able governance” ended with Ukraine losing part of its territory, with thousands of residents finding themselves amidst combat operations.

 Even this cold shower doesn’t seem to have any effect on our political elite. They are still playing the old game by the rules established under Leonid Kuchma. I can only wonder who will be the first to stop this game and enter a new page in Ukrainian history.

By Ivan KAPSAMUN, The Day
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