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9 Feb, 2008 19:09

Gazprom urges Ukraine’s President to solve gas crisis

Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller has sent a telegram to Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, urging him to help settle the debt issue. The Russian energy giant says it's appealing directly to the president because of the exceptional nature of the crisis.

Gazprom has warned Ukraine it may halt gas supplies on February 12 if it does not settle $US 1.5 billion of unpaid debt.

Ukraine, however, denies it owes the money and talks aimed at resolving the dispute ended with no result this weekend.

The head of Ukraine's Naftogas, Oleg Dubina, says the company does not have enough gas stored to maintain local supplies.

According to some analysts, there may be unforeseen consequences for Ukraine if the dispute escalates.

Sergey Mikheev from the Moscow-based Centre of Political Technologies says, “Nobody wants to completely cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and watch it dying of hunger”.

“It’s evident, that we are responsible for gas transit to Europe. Hence, it’s rather complicated to cut off Ukraine. Otherwise, we’ll face problems with our European partners,” he says.

The expert believes that “a way out could lie in building alternative bypass lines in the south and north”. This, however, takes time and effort.

“The issue is that by this move we try to force Ukraine to find a sound compromise, be sober in its vision. They should understand that it’s silly to pursue conflict-based policy with its more powerful neighbor,” Mikheev says.
According to the analyst, primarily, this crisis would affect Ukraine itself as it is divided from the inside.

“If anybody wants to split Ukraine into several parts, it wouldn't take much considering the current economic crisis,” he says.

“I believe, Ukrainian politicians are not aware of the game they are playing – they hope their American and European partners will cover them. Well, let them do this, let them supply Ukraine with gas,” Mikheev concluded.