Intermediary Mysteries

gaz.jpgUkrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has long been advocating the elimination of RosUkrEnergo, calling it a ‘criminal enterprise’ and linking it to corruption in the gas industry as far back as 2005.  Now analysts are discussing the possibility that the Russia-Ukraine gas row may have been caused by a dispute about this intermediary company, joint owned by Russian and Ukrainian interests and domiciled in Switzerland, which buys Russian gas for onward transmission to Europe.  A former Chevron executive quoted in yesterday’s Bloomberg suggests that the row is not about pricing, but about ‘who gets a bigger piece of the pie in the re-export business to Europe, as well as who gets the more lucrative domestic market in Ukraine’.

A Gazprom spokesman suggested that current troubles may relate to the fact that certain ‘political forces’ in Ukraine want to keep RosUkrEnergo in place as an intermediary.  Naftogaz, on the other hand, insists that it isn’t interested in using an intermediary – but how much does this have to do with the two lawsuits filed by RosUkrEnergo against Naftogaz just last week for ‘failing to honor its commitments’, ordering it to pay debts of $614 million?

And the plot thickens.  This week, even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested that Gazprom was ready to sign a direct contract with Naftogaz – ‘but they are not allowing us to do that’.  And, perhaps more astonishingly due to the current debate about Russia’s own levels of corruption, Putin added that the Ukrainian gas row ‘speaks of a high level of corruption in political structures which are today, in these conditions, fighting for gas prices and for the chance to preserve this or that intermediary to use dividends from them for personal enrichment and for future political campaigns.’  

As one transparency campaigner says:

‘The fact that RosUkrEnergo still remains – despite the opposition from Tymoshenko and Naftogaz’s Dubyna and after Putin and Tymoshenko agreed to do away with it — indicates that some people very much want the company to stay, and we are not quite sure why.’