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IS HUNGARY PLAYING BOTH SIDES IN PIPELINE GAME? The Hungarian oil and gas company MOL signed an agreement with Gazprom in Budapest on June 21 on extending the Russian Blue Stream pipeline from Turkey to Europe, dpa reported. Hungary's Economy and Transport Minister Janos Koka said that Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and unnamed Gazprom officials reviewed the project, as well as the possible construction of a large Russian gas-storage facility in Hungary, which Gyurcsany and President Putin discussed during the latter's visit to Hungary earlier in 2006. Koka added that the latest deal will make his country's gas supplies more secure. During the Ukrainian gas crisis, Koka called a meeting of energy ministers from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia to discuss ways of reducing their dependence on Russian natural-gas deliveries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 20 and March 1, 2006). On June 21, Koka noted that his ministry still backs the Nabucco pipeline, which competes with the Gazprom project. Hungary is expected to sign an agreement on Nabucco in Vienna on June 26. He added that the pact will not be binding but will enable the government to determine how much EU funding will be available to it. Nabucco will connect the Caspian region to Central Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Austria. PM

TURKMENISTAN ASKS RUSSIA TO PAY MORE FOR GAS. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry announced in a June 20 statement that the country has asked Russia's Gazprom to pay $100 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas in the second half of 2006 instead of the current price of $65. If Russia does not agree to the new terms within a month and a half, it added, Turkmenistan will halt gas shipments. The statement said that Turkmen Oil and Gas Industry Minister Gurbanmurat Ataev told a visiting European delegation on June 20 that deliveries on a late-2005 contract for Turkmenistan to supply Gazprom with 30 billion cubic meters of gas in 2006 at $65 per 1,000 cubic meters will be completed in two months. Turkmenistan informed Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller of the price hike on June 19, and when Russia held fast to a price of $65, "the Turkmen side flatly refused this proposal," the statement said. Miller's negotiations with Turkmenistan failed to produce an agreement, and a second round is expected soon. An increase in the purchase price of Turkmen gas would have a knock-on effect for Ukraine, which currently pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters and buys most of its gas from Turkmenistan through Swiss-registered gas trader Rosukrenergo. DK

ORANGE ALLIES ANNOUNCE CREATION OF RULING COALITION IN UKRAINE. Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous political bloc, told the Verkhovna Rada on June 22 that the three Orange Coalition allies -- her bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party of Ukraine -- have formally signed an accord to form a new government in Ukraine, Ukrainian media reported. The accord comes after nearly three months of negotiations. The coalition will be supported by 243 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada. The Party of Regions (186 seats) and the Communist Party (21 seats) will remain in the opposition. "You [the Party of Regions] wanted to replace the slogan of the Orange Revolution 'Bandits will sit in jail' with 'Bandits will sit in ministerial chairs.' Nothing will come of it, esteemed friends," Tymoshenko said in the parliamentary hall. JM