Russia and Ukraine meet to resolve the dispute
Russian and Ukrainian press commentators have reacted sceptically to the gas deal signed by Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday.
While the agreement is supposed to pave the way for the resumption of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine, many commentators feel that key details have been left unaddressed. They believe this "blood-chilling uncertainty" (to quote one paper) could provoke similar disputes in the future.
Meanwhile, one paper warns Ukrainians that the era of "cheap gas" is over - "once and for all".
Many questions of energy cooperation between the two countries still remain unanswered. This may lead to a new exacerbation of the gas conflict in the very near future.
Gazprom's victory may turn out to be short-lived. Inevitably, gas prices will fall as a result of oil prices having fallen fourfold. And thanks to the transition to the European price formula, during the year gas will become cheaper for Ukraine.
In actual fact there have been and there are no technical problems with technical gas. Ukraine has been bluffing and Russia has been trying to use this bluff against Ukraine, trying to win the European energy giants over to its side. The latter, though, managed to remain strangely calm in the circumstances... Everyone just wanted to reach a deal.
Unless this is a false start, Russia, Ukraine and the Europeans waiting for their gas can be congratulated on the agreements reached by Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko. But even if this is a success - something which everyone hopes for - it is a tactical one. As for the overall strategy, though, many questions remain.
The gas conflict is over. The EU countries were given a 10-year guarantee of stability (to be more exact, an illusion of a guarantee, because a reason can always be found to disrupt supplies, regardless of any documents).
The two masters of intrigue and negotiations eased certain tension but left blood-chilling uncertainty.
Another acute conflict is embedded in new gas agreements... Who will pump gas into Ukraine's underground storage facilities, and at what rate? In May-June the price of gas will be higher than in October-December. Why would Naftohaz (Ukrayiny) buy expensive gas in summer when it could buy it cheap in winter?
It is time to forget about cheap gas from the brotherly country once and for all. It is time to count every kopeck, economise and look for new sources of energy saving.
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