Ukraine, Russia To Seal Gas Debt Repayment
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma ventured to Moscow on December 21st for a two-day working visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, much of which is expected to focus on Kiev’s energy debts.
The Kuchma-Putin talks -- the third of their kind between the two leaders in two months – will primarily address Ukraine’s giant natural gas debts to Moscow.
Senior officials from both sides suggested that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Ukraine and Russia to restructure Ukrainian gas debts of more than $1.4 billion could be signed during Kuchma’s visit.
When the two leaders last met on December 1st in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, they had reached a compromise on the repayment of the gas debts and set the stage for the MOU to be signed.
At the time, Kuchma had said that: “We have agreed on restructuring. Russia has agreed to reschedule debt worth a total of $700 million.”
The Russian president had also on December 1st alluded to Ukraine’s past siphoning of gas that was transported through the country to Russian customers in Europe, saying that: “After this [agreement] no one will be able to say again that Ukraine steals our gas like a thief in the night.”
The two leaders had in October met to resolve the siphoning issue after Russian gas giant Gazprom had announced that it had formed a consortium to build a new gas export pipeline that would bypass Ukraine, running instead through Belarus, Poland and Slovakia.