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17 Jan, 2009 20:53

Ukraine starts feeling gas shortage

Ever since the gas dispute began Ukraine has been saying it has sufficient gas reserves to survive the row. But it seems Ukraine is already suffering from shortages.

After negotiations between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogas failed, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said she was now responsible for agreeing a new deal with Moscow.

The importance of her mission was acknowledged even among those in opposition to her government – a rare thing in Ukraine.

“It is the main problem in our country now. I think both Russia and Ukraine are now in a very dangerous situation. And I think that the task of any power, of any government is to resolve this dispute. We will applaud if our government succeeds,” says former Ukraine’s Energy Minister, Yury Boyko.

And many Ukrainians feel it is high time someone acted.

“The gas row has only deepened the crisis. The country’s chemical industry has already suffered because of the global market crisis, but now 80 per cent of companies have stopped their operations simply because they lack gas. And that’s a huge blow to the country’s exports,” says political analyst Mikhail Pogribinsky.

Several regions of Ukraine have reported heating reductions caused by low pressure in gas pipes.

And even Kiev could suffer from this turmoil.

According to Naftogas, the city’s administration hasn’t paid its gas debt for the first time in many years.

Many have related it not to financial issues, but to the shortage of gas itself. But Kiev’s mayor says should his city be deprived of heating, he will take strong action against Naftogas.

“I will have enough determination to cut sewer systems to those villains who are creating problems for us and leave them without toilets. Moreover, I will block their building, ban parking there and will put security guards at the entrance,” says Mayor of Kiev, Leonid Chernovetsky.

So it’s a double-mission for the standard-bearer of the Orange Revolution in Moscow – to save Ukraine’s face in the international arena and to restore a warm winter to those in her own country.

Timoshenko has consistently stressed that supplies of gas to Europe and a future gas contract for Ukraine are definitely two different issues.