Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Moscow is accused of political pressure on Kiev

Agence Europe - 12 January 2006

As the gas conflict between Moscow and Kiev - which was temporarily resolved last week with a price agreement reached by Russian Gazprom and Ukrainian Naftogaz (EUROPE 9102) - begins to look more like a political crisis in Ukraine not even three months from the next legislative elections (250 deputies out of 450 in the Ukrainian parliament rejected the agreement of 4 January on Tuesday), the members of the EP delegation responsible for cooperation with Ukraine held, on Wednesday morning, an exchange of views with Ukraine's ambassador to the Union, Roman Shpek. After the fashion of the Ukrainian representative, all those taking part in the debate clearly accused Moscow of practising unfair political blackmail towards Kiev in the gas conflict, of which the Union was last week a collateral victim.

“For the first time, Moscow has used the gas weapon against the Union on a large scale”, the president of the delegation for relations with Ukraine, Polish Socialist Marek Siwiec said. Several Member States had in fact been temporarily affected by the cessation of Russian gas deliveries intended for Ukraine on 1 and 2 January. “It is not an energy dispute but a political dispute”, Mr Siwiec said, before going on to accuse Russia of wanting to “go against the direction of history one year after the Orange Revolution”. “This is an example of the Imperialist way of thinking”, the Polish deputy said. “The way in which Russia has acted with Ukraine is unacceptable”, the chairman of the EP delegation for relations with Russia,

Dutch Christian Democrat Camiel Eurlings, added, saying the “political link is obvious”. Russia wants to “make Ukraine pay the high price” for its loss of influence on satellite countries or countries of the former USSR republics. “We depend on Russian energy, but Russia should not forget that it also depends on purchases made by its rich client, the Union”, Mr Eurlings said, considering that closer cooperation with Moscow is necessary but only if certain “conditions of confidence” are met: - guarantees not only on energy supplies but also on democracy and rule of law as well as security (respect of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons), especially in the context of the Iranian crisis). “We want Russia to be a privileged partner, but we shall not accept this at any price”, Mr Eurlings warned. Although he, too, accused Moscow of using gas as a weapon for political purposes with European citizens being threatened as “economic victims”, Dutch Socialist Thijs Berman also denounced the “timidity of Europeans towards the Kremlin”.

Russia is becoming undeniably increasingly authoritarian, British Conservative Charles Tannock said for his part. The Ukrainian ambassador, Roman Shpek, said recent events have allowed three lessons to be learnt: - Ukraine has “proved its readiness to be a reliable and responsible partner who behaves itself in accordance with civilized norms and strongly holds its contractual commitments”, sparing no effort to ensure Russian gas deliveries are continued to the Union and assuming its responsibility as a transit country.

It has also demonstrated a total “adherence to common European values”; - Russian attempts are obvious to “create the crisis situation in the gas sphere and then to use it as a means of political pressure” to achieve its goal just before vital legislative elections in Ukraine; - and the diversification of supply routes unites the Union and Ukraine in the common aim of reducing dependence on a single source and the unpredictable behaviour of Russia. The Kiev representative said that the most important lesson is that an end must be put to the reflection period on the prospects of Ukraine's accession to the Union. The earlier this happens, the better it will be, Mr Shpek concluded, assuring that membership would be the only way to save Ukraine.