Kiev, Ukraine – Head of Ukrainian Government Yulia Timoshenko held another round of talks with Russian Government in Yalta, Ukraine, however no progress was attainted on the gas deal. Kremlin raised stakes demanding a 20% price increase for gas, as well as the right for the first night of each month with head of Ukrainian government.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry back-fired immediately, calling the proposal “inappropriate: and “politically incorrect”. Foreign Minister Vitaly Salenko said: “It is clearly inappropriate and outrageous to propose the 20% increase in gas price. Russia must understand that bigger price for gas means bigger tax for transit, so it’s pointless to play these games with us.”
Soon after the Russian proposal was voiced, thousands gathered in downtown Kiev to protest against Eastern neighbor’s policy. Residents of Kiev protested against Russian statements with multiple flags.
Leader of Ukrainian national-patriotic movement “Our Gas” Vitaly Benderko announced to gathered crowd: “Russia has insulted our nation to the core. What do they mean – more money for gas? How sick is that to demand from us? We call on US, Europe and NATO to step in for us in this one”.
US State Department reacted immediately. Hilary Clinton stated: “Russian leader’s proposal is highly immoral. Yulia Timoshenko is first of all a woman… and proposing to a woman gas price increase is just indecent”.
“We are also concerned by the Russian idea of such frequent intimate relationship with Ukrainian executive leader. This appears to be a direct involvement into Ukrainian internal affairs,” added head of State Department.
Russia responded to US statement, as Russian MFA Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday: “Indecent are the US attempts to mingle in territories of Russian traditional interests. The right for the first night with Ukrainian leader is a time-honored tradition of our country and we simply adhere to our historical roots in this matter”.
Lavrov also assured the West that Russia does not plan to get beyond missionary framework in this relationship.
Russian expert Sergey Karaganov analyzes the process: “Ukrainian politicians are overplaying emotions here. As we know Gasprom announced back in 2008 that gas price would be increased by 40% per cent by 2010. After talks with Ukrainian president Yushenko compromise was reached to cut it to 20%. So this is more of an internal issue for Ukraine related to their president.”
In the presidential campaign the gas leverage has taken on key role. Presidential candidate Timoshenko assures voters that gas can be brought to an even lower price:
“For the past month I have had already three meetings with Vladimir Putin. I believe that at this rate of meetings I will be able to sustain the gas price at current level for at least five more years”, said Timoshenko, “However, just in case, we are sending a package of warm winter clothes to our European friends indulging in hope of reliable gas transit through Ukraine.
President Viktor Yushenko called Timoshenko’s intimate relation with Russian leadership “cheap populism”. President said: “Everything must have measure. It is inappropriate for our prime minister to get involved in a relationship with a neighboring country based on a hobby.”
“We had already agreed with Russian leader that by next year we will bring down the percentage of gas pilfering from transit by 50%. This number is expected to continue decreasing and by 2013 we hope to steal no more than 20% of Russian transit gas to Europe if price is well-balanced”.