The Media Mirror – Today's Russian press review

Russia-Ukraine relations is examined by the Russian media again. Hours before the gas tap was to be turned off Russia and Ukraine managed to find a compromise, but what's next?

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA says, that it is clear that after the two Presidents reached an agreement the head of NaftoGaz Ukraine said he needs proof that gas used in November -December was truly Russian. Gazprom's head Alexey Miller retorted. “RosUkrEnergo and UkrGaz Energo will be eliminated from the deal only to be replaced by two new middleman companies,” he said.

German Russia watcher Alexander Rahr believes that for the Ukrainian Orange coalition the shortest way to Ukraine's NATO membership lies through confrontation with Russia, or at least through the creation of an image of an unfriendly Russia. “We should understand that Ukraine has no permanent Russia policy, as its elite has no unity. Everything in Ukraine is decided by who's on top – Western Ukraine with its NATO ambition or the East with its strong links to Russia. Yulia Timoshenko, the Big Populist of the Post-Soviet space, creates most of the conflicts. But she only wants power – so it is possible to find common language and reason with her” Rahr commented.

Sergei Karaganov writes in the same paper: Russia-Ukraine relations look very good now. It's a friendly relationship between two big nations which have a few small issues to discuss. Ukraine's aspired NATO membership would be a big problem, especially if the process ends in the setting up of a real border between the two nations. That would be a catastrophe for Ukraine and a very unpleasant event for Russia. As for Yulia Timoshenko – well, she is a pragmatic and practical woman. It's possible to talk to her.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that Yulia Timoshenko is making Russia's budget stretch thin to match her social initiatives. An editorial says since 2005 Timoshenko has been true and faithful to one policy – that of initiating new and generous social security policies. As a result Ukraine has a better maternity bonus, pensions matching that of Russians and a 90% payback of the population's savings in the defunct Soviet Savings Bank. The paper continues that the social security race between Ukraine and Russia will enter the next phase when Timoshenko replaces the conscription-based army with a professional one. That may be the end of the race: analysts doubt Ukrain's budget can stomach that. Unless NATO helps.