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Ukraine will pay its $2 billion Russian gas bill

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"The Kremlin is showing that we can be rewarded for good geopolitical choices, and punished for bad ones," says Alexei Kolomiyets, president of the independent Institute of Euro-Atlantic Integration in Ukraine's capital, Kiev. "Energy supplies are the main instrument of pressure upon us, and we are left with very few options. It's quite possible that there can be interruptions in the gas supply to Europe in coming weeks."

Mr. Kolomiyets points to Belarus, a Russian ally granted a significant price cut this week on its already subsidized rates for Russian gas, as an example of how some are rewarded for making the "right" choices. "We hear that the Belarussian Parliament will recognize the [Russian-sponsored] republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia," in return for being given a favorable gas deal, he says. "This is an obvious object lesson for others."

But Russian experts allege it's Ukraine that's complicating the issue, by pursuing anti-Moscow policies while enjoying subsidized Russian gas. "Russia doesn't want to influence Ukrainian politics," Kremlin-connected analyst Gleb Pavlovsky told the independent Interfax news agency Monday. "The Russian position is simple: Get the money, step back, and leave Ukraine to its own devices."

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