World » Former USSR
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Putin to Ukraine: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko conducted negotiations with her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on October 2. Tymoshenko arrived in Moscow to discuss the question with the price on natural gas, which Ukraine buys from Russia.

Experts say that Tymoshenko may take an advantage over her political rivals in Ukraine in the event the problem is solved positively for Kiev.

Tymoshenko’s trip to Moscow was quite an adventure. Her flight on board the presidential jetliner was canceled shortly before the departure. It was said that President Yushchenko supposedly needed to use the plane too for a flight to Lvov. As a result, Tymoshenko had to board a charter plane. Spokespeople for the Ukrainian prime minister in Kiev said that the incident with the plane had been plotted by Yushchenko’s camp.

Putin reminded Tymoshenko during their meeting in the Moscow region that Ukraine was making arms shipments to Georgia.

“It is a great pity that Ukraine considered it possible to deliver arms to the conflict zone,” Interfax quoted Putin as saying. “There could not be a bigger crime committed to the people of Ukraine and Russia than making arms shipments to the conflict zone,” he added after the talks.

“It was impossible to imagine several years ago that Russians and Ukrainians will be fighting each other,” Putin said. The prime minister emphasized that the shipments per se were not that significant since it was a commercial matter. “But there were military systems and people used to kill soldiers – Russian people, which is an alarming signal for us,” Putin stated.

“Has it been done for the sake of the Ukrainian nation? What are the interests of the Ukrainian people there? This is a political intrigue, an irresponsible and harmful crime, the crime, when the Russian and the Ukrainian nations clash,” Putin said.

Yulia Tymoshenko was not so emphatic in her remarks. She stated that all the accusations need to be proved first. “I do not think that the facts will be confirmed,” she said.

Vladimir Putin pointed out that the unstable political situation in Ukraine may eventually question the effectiveness of the signed agreements between Moscow and Kiev. “But I hope that they won’t be revised,” he added.

“Unfortunately, our meeting is taking place under very complicated conditions. It is connected with the uncertainty in the decisions linked with the political situation in Ukraine. One question arises in connection with the agreements that we are discussing today – what is going to happen with them tomorrow?” Putin told Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko stated that Ukraine considers Russia as an absolute strategic partner.

Russia 's use of force in Georgia has deepened nervousness among many Ukrainians about their larger neighbor, whose leaders are vehemently opposing Yushchenko's efforts to bring Ukraine into NATO. The Kremlin has warned NATO against granting membership to Ukraine or Georgia.

Moscow could use the price for its natural gas as a bargaining chip in its effort to stem Ukraine's strengthening of ties with the West.

The gas cooperation memorandum signed Thursday leaves ample room for wrangling over prices in actual contracts. But Tymoshenko said she won a Russian commitment that prices would rise only gradually.

"The parties confirmed their desire to gradually move to free-market prices over the next three years," Tymoshenko said. "We have reached an agreement that our countries don't need shock therapy."

The dealings with Putin are something of a turnaround for Tymoshenko, who has strongly criticized Russia in the past.

She allied with Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution that propelled him to the presidency in 2004 over a pro-Russia candidate, and she said last year the West should thwart Moscow's ambition to regain influence over countries that were once part of its empire.

But Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have been feuding bitterly — the governing coalition of their political parties collapsed last month, raising the prospect of new elections — and she has increasingly talked about the need to improve ties with Russia.

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