Signature of Ukraine-Russia gas deal put off again
Updated: 2006-01-26 13:53
The signature of agreements sealing a deal on supplying Russian gas to
Ukraine at sharply increased prices has been postponed again pending further
study, Ukraine's Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov said on Wednesday.
Russian gas giant Gazprom briefly cut supplies to Ukraine in the New Year
during a tense contract dispute, affecting shipments to anxious customers
"It looks today as if the agreements will not be signed. Experts are
continuing to work on this, Russian experts are here and working," Yekhanurov,
who had suggested the deal might be signed on Wednesday, told a cabinet meeting.
"Unfortunately, we are not yet going ahead with the signature. Consultations
with Gazprom are proceeding."
The Kremlin makes no secret of its dislike of the West-leaning stand of
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko who rose to power a year ago after mass
protests forced a rerun of an election initially won by a Moscow-backed
In Moscow, a Gazprom official linked the postponement to differences over the
future activity of a new joint venture agreed under the January 4 deal to supply
Officials had originally hoped to sign documents last Saturday pertaining to
the agreement, hotly debated as Ukraine gears up for a March 26 parliamentary
The deal, which prompted Ukraine's parliament to dismiss the liberal
government of Yushchenko, provides for gas to be supplied at $95 per 1,000 cubic
metres instead of the previous price of $50.
Yekhanurov told the cabinet efforts were being made to cut record gas
consumption amid a prolonged cold snap and allegations by Gazprom that Ukraine
was exceeding agreed levels.
He said if the weather persisted, he would urge industrial users to cut
levels "even if it means suspending their main production".
Last weekend Yekhanurov said Ukraine wanted clarification on pricing
mechanisms and on how long prices would remain valid.
The premier also said questions had been raised over whether ministers who
had been formally dismissed were empowered to sign the deal.
The dismissal of the government, on grounds that the gas deal betrayed
Ukraine's national interest, has plunged Ukraine into a constitutional crisis
ahead of the March 26 election. Yushchenko refuses to recognise the government's