Gas talks bring no results - for now

Talks between Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftagas have ended without any result in Moscow. Officials at the Russian gas giant say the Ukrainian side was not willing to discuss a stated gas debt of $US 1.5 billion.

Gazprom said that supplies to Ukraine will be halted from February 20, if the issue is not settled.

Ukrainian leaders set out to find the reasons behind a $US 1.5 billion debt to Russia’s Gazprom.

However, the meeting with the Russian side showed that the Ukrainians were totally unprepared to discuss the essence of the problem.

Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko seemed unaware of the growing burden and blamed the middleman, Rosukrenergo, for illegal trading.

“I can see Rosukrenergo is decomposing across Ukraine, it’s ineffective and dishonest. Because of this company our gas price is so high,” Tymoshenko said.

Ukrainian gas giant Naftogaz has also laid the blame on their trading partner and rushed to Moscow for negotiations.

The shadow cabinet thinks the problem is with the government. According to Yuriy Boyko, ex-Minister of Gas and Fuel, Ukraine has been consuming gas from the start of the year without any legal contracts.

President Yuschenko has found fault with his own prime minister, stating that he believes Tymoshenko’s drive to revise Russian transit fees could be behind the current debt problem.

Yushenko has asked for a full report on how to resolve the issue by the February 11.

Ukraine has got two days left to pay the bill or else the gas will be shut off. But despite the time pressure, the President, the PM and the gas giants seem intent on pointing the finger of blame at each other, thus aggravating already uneasy relations with Moscow.