Monday, December 19, 2005

Ukrainian-Russian Gas Dispue Turns Uglier

Ukraine bared its teeth in a row with Russia over the price of its natural gas on Tuesday, making a veiled threat it might consider raising the rent on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Reuters reported.

By introducing the Fleet issue, pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko injected new tension into relations already strained since he came to power last year in an “Orange Revolution” of street protests defeating a pro-Kremlin candidate.

Yushchenko, critical of Russia’s demand that Ukraine pay substantially more for its gas, said it was time to apply world standards to all economic matters, including how much Russia paid to keep its Fleet in the port of Sevastopol.

The president broached the emotive issue — one that has always loomed in the background of post-Soviet relations — as Russian negotiators piled on pressure for Ukraine to pay at least four times the rate it currently pays for gas supplies.

“We are coming to an understanding that all our economic relations must be in accordance with world, European standards,” Yushchenko told a news conference, when asked about the failure to clinch a gas deal at talks in Moscow on Monday.

Rad more here.

Tensions just went up several notches. The Black Sea Fleet is a very, very sensative subject for the Russians. For that matter, Crimea and Sebastapol are rather sensative subjects as well. There's going to be a lot of tit for tat about to happen here unless one side caves. This is not going to be pretty at all.

My personal prediction is that the Ukrainians get screwed on the prices for gas, but that the Russians lose the last of their influence as well including the basing rights in Crimea. Raising the price of gas isn't going to turn the Ukrainian populace into Russophiles. On the contrary, it'll discredit the Easterns more. It'll prolly discredit the Orange Revs as well though.

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