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Putin’s Naftogaz Prank

Over at Oil and the Glory, Steve LeVine sees Vladimir Putin’s unexpected offer to take over the Ukrainian economy as something akin to a practical joke.

Putin likes to sneak up behind neighbors, throw up his arms, and shout, Boo! Usually, those neighbors startle when he does so. A week ago, it was the turn of Ukraine to play the butt of Putin’s fun. At a news conference in Sochi on April 30, Putin stood with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykoka Azarov, and said that he had proposed merging Russia’s giant Gazprom with its Ukrainian counterpart, Naftogaz. In the days since, Ukrainian officials top to bottom have said that no such discussion occurred. Most recently, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said that just because Putin suggested it “does not mean that this question will be considered by Ukraine.”

Over at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, senior fellow Edward Chow says that it’s nothing to joke about. He calls it a “corporate raid,” and suggests that it’s the prelude for another coming dustup in which Russia will present Ukraine with a bill for unpaid gas supplies, and in return demand equity in Ukrainian assets.