EU attempts to solve gas problem
The visit of European Commission President Romano Prodi to Kyiv was received with mixed emotions. Notably, Ukraine expected Prodi to offer a decisive action plan on the "gas problem" (see previous news reviews). Negotiations have been continuing between Ukraine and the European Union over the extent of gas pipeline supplies to Ukraine . Predictions about the final outcome of the gas pipelines controversy, which has aggravated tensions in the industry between Ukraine and Russia, ranged from deeply pessimistic to highly optimistic. However, the latter is anticipated.
Previous agreements between Russian business and government leaders with European Union countries and private Western European enterprises have left almost no hope for Ukraine to benefit in any way from the EU's decision to increase its supply of Russian gas.
Recent concessions to Poland (see CER issue 37)—considered the last and the most reliable friend of Ukraine—seemed to leave the country isolated. However, when everything about the gas pipeline saga seemed hopeless, events took a turn for the better.
The EU promised not to decrease the amount of gas passing through Ukraine but rather suggested that a second pipeline (if it is ever built) could be used to transit additional amounts of gas. Moreover, the EU plans to add Ukraine to the list of countries that have a decisive voice in questions relating to Europe's gas supply. In light of these developments, Kyiv made the wisest of decisions; they agreed to the construction of the additional pipeline.
Feeling utterly helpless in light of its economic and political misery, Ukraine has once again found sympathy from Western countries. In addition to the decision for a second pipeline, the EU resolved to help Ukraine with the delivery of its energy resources after the Chernobyl nuclear power station closes. In order to compensate for the loss of five percent of the electricity that Ukraine now gets from the Chernobyl plant, the EU will allocate euro 25 million (USD 21.2 million) for the purchase of additional energy resources.
The Russian response
Russian reaction to the developments in Ukraine is easy to predict. An official statement has not yet been made. However, the media has offered its take on the turn of events. The Russian online newspaper Vesti.ru published an article under the scandalous title: "Kiev decided to steal gas from Europe."
The article stresses that Kyiv has mobilized all its forces from the diplomatic to the military with one aim—to preserve the transit of Russian gas through its territory. Surprisingly, Russian journalists are even ready to explain the Champions' League victory of Ukraine's Shakhtar football team against England's Arsenal FC with the same slanted logic.
It is explained, in a colorful manner, how Ukraine is stretching itself under Europe and NATO and what the EU has to do in order to keep Ukraine in this tenuous position (under the EU). Vesti.ru proclaims with pride, "If Europe indeed makes such steps, it would be quite acceptable for us (meaning Russia): the bad quality of the Ukrainian pipeline will not affect payment for gas transferred to Europe."
So, the problems Russia has had, until now, with Ukrainians who openly steal their gas will soon become a headache for the EU, or so the newspaper joyfully predicts.
Invitation of the Holy Father as an answer to roundabout pipeline?
Ukraine's decision not to give up on the question of gas transit to Europe was not the only disappointment for its northern neighbor last week. Ukraine dealt a further blow to Russia by inviting Pope John Paul II to visit the country. President Kuchma first invited the Holy Father to visit Kyiv in 1998, and this year he accepted the invitation.
The Vatican confirmed that the Pope would visit Ukraine in June 2001. The visit will take place on an official level. The message sent by Russian media was clear: "In the current situation the visit of John Paul II to Ukraine may have unpredictable consequences for the relationship between Catholics and Orthodox."
The Pope has a strong intention to visit Slavic Orthodox lands. However, all his attempts to meet his Russian "colleagues" have failed. Kyiv, which became the first Russian land to adopt Christianity a thousand years ago, is a symbolic place for the Pope's visit.
Nonetheless, such a visit cannot please the Russian Church, which traditionally considers Ukraine as its religious patrimony despite the large number of Catholics, Greek Catholics, and Orthodox of the Ukrainian patriarchy and Autocephaly who live on its territory. Moscow is afraid that if the visit takes place it may lead to a closer relationship between Kyiv and the Vatican and indirectly transform into further relations between Kyiv and Orthodox Constantinople, instead of Orthodox Moscow.
Ukrainians shun October Revolution day
This year for the 83rd time, former Soviet Union Republics celebrated the day of the October Revolution. For the first time since the collapse of the USSR, 7 November was not officially proclaimed a day off in Ukraine. However, supporters of the Communist Party and the restoration of the Soviet Union organized meetings all over the country in accordance to tradition. Although recent sociological polls indicate increased support for leftist forces (See previous news reviews), demonstrations on 7 November were not well attended.
An average of one to two thousand people participated in the demonstrations in the biggest Ukrainian cities, however, bad weather did not stimulate their activity. The most crowded meetings took place in Sevastopol, with about 4000 people in attendance, and Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv, each garnering a turnout of 3000. On the contrary, in L'viv, members of the Social-National Party burned a bugaboo of Lenin.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 10 November 2000
- Archive of Ukrainian news reviews
- Browse through the CER eBookstore
- Buy English-language books on Ukraine through CER
- Return to CER front page
Den', Daily national newspaper
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Ukrainska Pravda, online independent
Unian, National News Agency
1+1, National TV
Vremya Novostey, Russian daily newspaper
The Ukrainian Observer, Ukrainian online publication