Ukrainians Will Get Gas, Too, But Their Cost and Risk of Cutoffs Remain High
European Union leaders in Brussels may be celebrating the gas deal signed Thursday between Ukraine and Russia as an assurance of Russian gas supplies to Europe this winter, but Ukrainians can at best take cold comfort from the agreement. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who had been brokering the talks for months, partly dictated the timing of the deal, applying the pressure to complete it one day before his term in office ended.
The terms of the deal do more to protect Russia’s flexibility to manipulate gas supplies for political ends than they do to ensure that Ukrainians can stay warm this winter at market prices. For starters, there is the agreed price for the gas: $378 per thousand cubic meters through the end of the year and then $365 through March 2015. While those are better than the rate of more than $400 that Moscow had been asking, it is still well above the average European gas price of $304.
Donetsk, Lugansk Vote for ‘Parliaments’ Violates Truce and Raises Risks, Say Analysts
The Russian-backed, miniature, “people’s republics” declared in southeastern Ukraine are preparing to elect parliaments and heads of state on Sunday, a step backed by Moscow to consolidate their self-declared statehood. Those elections promise to further undermine the already wobbly political deal that underpins the half-effective ceasefire in the war. Does that increase the risk of a new surge in fighting?
The former director and deputy director of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company, Naftogaz, will have been waiting today to hear if they are elected to Ukraine’s parliament, not least because winning seats would offer them immunity from prosecution. Prosecution for what?
Official Tallies Are Tracking With Polls Predicting a Strong, Pro-Europe and Reformist CoalitionWith 71 percent of Ukraine’s ballots counted today, the official results are broadly tracking the recent days’ polls, suggesting that Ukraine’s next government will be a pro-European coalition built across several political parties, with President Petro Poroshenko likely to rely on his alliance with a strengthened Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Despite the war in the southeast, and hundreds of thousands of uprooted families, voter turnout was greater than 50 percent, according to the Central Election Commission—a reflection of the popular demands voiced last winter by Ukraine’s pro-democracy, anti-corruption Maidan movement, writes the Atlantic Council’s Irena Chalupa.
Parliament Election is a Defeat for Russia’s Putin: How Will He Respond?
If Sunday’s exit poll accurately depicts Ukraine’s parliamentary vote, the outcome is a stunning victory for reform and a pro-European orientation—and a big defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin. It immediately raises the question whether Putin will respond with a new aggressive move in Ukraine.
Billionaire investment magnate and pro-democracy philanthropist George Soros has sounded what he says is a wake-up call to Europe (and to the United States) over a failure to see that it is “facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence.” You can read here his full 3,200-word essay for the New York Review of Books, or take in his main points, below:
‘You Didn’t See Us Here,’ Officer Admonishes, as Moscow Keeps Military Options in Ukraine
As Ukrainians elect a parliament this weekend, new evidence pops up of Russia’s military role in their country: Western journalists this week found destroyed Russian tanks in Donetsk—and very live (if somewhat drunk) Russian soldiers happy to socialize at one of the last cafés still open in Lugansk.
“You didn’t see us here,” a uniformed officer named Slava tells the reporters as they leave, a bottle of vodka under his arm. And indeed the Russian army regulars in Lugansk operate in the background, leaving locals or imported Russian volunteers to the more visible roles, according to journalists Courtney Weaver and Max Seddon.
Poroshenko's Party Leads; Yatsenyuk Improves Chance of Remaining Prime Minister
On Sunday, Ukrainians will elect their first parliament since the Maidan revolution and the Russian invasions of Crimea and Donbas. Kyiv-based political analyst Brian Mefford, now a nonresident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council, analyzes Ukrainian politics and elections on his website’s blog. Mefford’s analysis will feature on New Atlanticist and the Atlantic Council’s UkraineAlert newsletter, beginning with his reading this week of the prospects for Sunday’s vote and Ukraine’s next government.
Mefford’s key observations this week are these:
Kyiv Says It Fires 39 Officials as Voters Show Frustration Over Continued Corruption
Eight months after Ukrainians forced the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, they will elect a parliament amid rising public anger over the persistence of government corruption under the still-new regime of President Petro Poroshenko. Public discussion about how many new leaders are the same as the old crowd has fueled the wave of attacks in recent weeks in which groups of men have accosted politicians on the street, accused them of graft, and heaved them into street-side trash dumpsters.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s office said it decided yesterday to dismiss thirty-nine officials, including “heads of central executive bodies” and “deputy ministers” after initial investigations of corruption allegations. That statement, on the Cabinet of Ministries website, also laid out a fourteen-month schedule for anti-corruption investigations of thousands of officials, starting with the top ranks.