The Media Mirror – Today's Russian press review

Gas, gas and more gas is the focus in Russian newspapers on Tuesday. Is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine a business dispute or political history repeating itself?

Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports: the tension in “gas relations” has created more questions than answers. The Ukrainian side wonders about who brought the 1.5 billion dollar debt into existence? Gazprom’s Sergey Kupriyanov says in response: let’s get a legal framework for gas supply. And – you shall pay the debt.

Izvestia writes, Russia-Ukraine relations are getting more and more theatrical. Yulia Timoshenko strikes a pose and promises to break all contracts, raise transit tariffs and destroy RosUkrEnergo. Viktor Yushchenko understands what this may do to his country and tries to calm everyone down. Gazprom, getting no payment for delivered goods, threatens to turn off the tap. European Russia-haters, again, start threatening the World with big bad Russia that wants to strangle Ukrainian independence.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Valentin Zemlianski, the PR director of the Ukrainian government’s NaftoGaz writes: the current gas conflict is unique in the sense that it never existed. NaftoGaz Ukraine doesn’t have any direct deals with Gazprom.

Moskovskiy Komsomolets writes that the $US 1.5 billion debt is not someone’s fantasy but cruel reality. Even Timoshenko admits that. The paper quotes her as saying: the middle company, RosUkrEnergo caused the state company NaftoGaz to accumulate debt. The paper adds: NaftoGaz collected gas fees from the population and businesses in October – December 2007. Not a cent of that money was paid to RosUkrEnergo. So, asks the paper – who’s to blame here?

Novaya Gazeta. Yanina Vas’kovskaya writes that it’s not yet clear who will eliminate whom – Yulia Timoshenko, the gas middleman RosUkrEnergo, or vice versa. The writer says, the crisis only proves that President Yushchenko was right when he spoke against raising transit tariffs and eliminating middlemen. In the context of Ukrainian politics Yulia Timoshenko will look like a loser after Yushchenko’s visit to Moscow.

Kommersant has a commentary by Dr. Aleksey Makarkin. He writes: Ukrainian politicians have a strong gut feeling of the danger of a cold war turning hot, so they always save the day by striking a compromise. The problem is, right after that they usually end up heating the water back to boiling point. It is hard to deal with the Ukrainian leadership. But then again – it was as hard for the Russian Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich 400 years ago.