The deal ended a pricing dispute over the New Year, but also created controversy in Ukraine because it raised gas prices and involved an intermediary company. That company, RosUkrEnergo, is equally owned by Russia's state-controlled Gazprom and a group of unknown investors.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on 7 February said the secret investors were linked to Ukraine, not to Russia.
Yekhanurov today denied that and said he ordered officials to ask RosUkrEnergo for more information on its activities and its owners.
"If somebody finds that any part of RosUkrEnergo belongs to Ukraine, I propose that the State Property Fund announce a tender today and put it up for auction sale for 1 hryvna [$0.20]."
Ukraine's parliament on 11 January voted to dismiss Yekhanurov's government over the gas deal, but President Viktor Yushchenko has ignored the vote.
("Ukrayinska pravda," Interfax, Reuters, AP)
RUNNING HOT AND COLD The crisis over Russian supplies of natural gas to Ukraine that erupted on New Year's Day has implications that spread well beyond these two countries and will impact both economic and political policymaking throughout Europe. On January 19, RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office hosted a briefing the examined the ramifications of the natural-gas conflict.
CLIFFORD GADDY, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlined Russia's "grand energy strategy," in which Ukraine is perceived as merely an obstacle frustrating Russia's energy ambitions in Western Europe and therefore a nonentity in Russia's broader strategic planning. According to Gaddy, Russia's strategic goal regarding energy is to maximize the role of its own energy resources in the world energy markets, so as to increase its geopolitical influence. To do this, it must reduce competition and maximize dependency on its own energy resources, as well as ensure a stable supply.
TARAS KUZIO, a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, rebutted Gaddy's argument, claiming that Russia's actions evidenced a complete lack of geopolitical strategy and resulted in strong denunciations by Western countries and a loss of political allies in Ukraine. According to Kuzio, Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to have a deal signed by the January 4 European Union energy summit outweighed his hope of reinforcing opposition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during the run-up to Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections.
RFE/RL Coordinator of Corruption Studies ROMAN KUPCHINSKY did not fully agree with Kuzio's assessments of Yushchenko or Ukraine. He outlined three major problems that are feeding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The biggest, he argues, is that the state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom holds a monopoly on natural-gas sales outside the CIS. Kupchinsky also decried Ukraine's consumption of natural gas, terming it "out of control." Corruption is also a major factor in the conflict, Kupchinsky said, although the extent to which it taints the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine remains unknown.