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Aug 30, 2021
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Gas transit through the Ukrainian GTS is in doubt

Angela Merkel visited Moscow on August 20, and visited Kiev on the 22nd. This is one of the last foreign tours of the terminating political career of the German leader. The choice of the route is associated with an attempt to make an effective final chord – to achieve, if not the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, to the conclusion of which Angela Merkel was directly involved, then tangible progress in this direction.

Minsk found itself in the same package with the issue of maintaining gas transit through Ukraine and “compensations” for putting Nord Stream-2 into operation. Their size, apparently, will be tied to Kiev’s readiness to make “reasonable compromises” on Donbass.

The US-German agreement stipulates that Berlin will undertake to facilitate the extension of agreements on the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, which expire in 2024, and “negotiations should begin as soon as possible, but no later than September 1.”

However, in her opening remarks at a briefing following the talks with Vladimir Putin, detailing a large number of topics discussed, Frau Merkel did not even touch on the “problem-2024” for Ukraine.

This gap was filled by the Russian leader answering journalists’ questions: “We are ready to transit gas through the territory of Ukraine after 2024. But … we cannot sign a transit contract if we do not have contracts for the supply to our consumers in Europe. And taking into account the “green” agenda, which is now, in fact, already being implemented in Europe, we have a question whether they will buy gas from us at all and how much. This is a subject for discussion … “Next point. Nord Stream 2 … is two thousand kilometers shorter than Ukrainian transit. And this is a modern, environmentally friendly system, these are not empty words, this is new equipment that, in my opinion, five times reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere during the transit of our hydrocarbons to Europe … And it is much cheaper than transit through the Ukrainian channel”.

In short, if you want to continue transit through Ukraine, guarantee the volumes of gas purchases, especially taking into account your “anti-carbon” agenda, and there will be no “transit for transit” to support Ukraine. Apparently, during the talks in Moscow, this was said clearly, and with this news Angela Merkel went to Kiev. This was announced publicly at a joint briefing by Merkel and Zelensky.

The German Chancellor said that Ukraine should be ready to reduce gas transit if its consumption in Europe falls. “In 25 years, Europe may refuse to purchase Russian gas or consume less of it,” Merkel said. “Therefore, Kiev needs to engage in the production of hydrogen and green energy.”

The Ukrainian president added a remark to this that “green” energy and hydrogen are long-term work, and Nord Stream 2 will start working now. “I want to understand what Ukraine will receive and what our state can lose after the 2024 treaty ends and who gives specific guarantees to Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

Acting Energy Minister Yuriy Vitrenko, after the talks held at the Crimean Platform, said: “There was little time, because these were not negotiations or detailed consultations … The Ukrainian delegation recalled the threat of gas monopolization of the European market, European colleagues reassured – except for gas (the transit of which through the Ukrainian GTS, recall, is questionable) there is still hydrogen and it can also be pumped through a pipe. “

The Ukrainian side proposed a new scheme: for European traders to transfer points of gas receiving to the border with the Russian Federation in their current contracts with Gazprom and only then conclude contracts for transit through Ukraine. “Now we are waiting for consultations at the company level, which Germany promised to try to organize. We are also waiting for the reaction of the US Congress, ”Vitrenko said.

As he told the publication “Strana. ua “a source familiar with the negotiations, hinted to Ukraine that” it would be worth taking a softer position in relation to Nord Stream 2 “, but … it was clear that neither Germany nor the United States was ready to support Ukraine now.”

Let us note the urgent calls made to Ukraine to deal with alternative energy and hydrogen. This is really not a matter of the near future, it is extremely costly (especially for an impoverished state) and generally rather dubious.

The very fact of such recommendations shows what we have talked about more than once: we are talking not so much about transit as about gas supply to Ukraine, since the Russian origin of “Hungarian” and “Slovak” gas, supposedly replacing Russian, is a secret of Polichinel.

And, judging by the “good advice” of Western partners, even in this matter they are not ready to sign for Ukraine. The current Western approach to Ukraine shows that it is becoming a burden for Berlin and Washington. In any case, the refusal to give more or less intelligible guarantees of support in case of difficulties with the “transit” must be understood in this way.

And here it is worth paying attention to a curious moment. Taking a gloomy position for Kiev on gas issues, Angela Merkel during her tour made several “pleasant” statements for the Ukrainian authorities on the situation in Donbass. In Moscow, she expressed regret that “Ukrainian servicemen are dying along the line of demarcation” (it must be understood that she does not regret the death and injury of civilians), and in Kiev she called Russia a participant in the conflict in Donbass, therefore “it is correct that Ukraine refuses to conduct negotiations with representatives of the separatists ”.

After such “encouraging”, not to say provocative, statements, it is difficult to expect a constructive position from Kiev. I will not rule out that retiring Angela Merkel simply does not want the laurels of a peacemaker to go to her successor. Perhaps she is also quite satisfied with the fact that the disruption or treading on the spot of the peace process removes the question of “compensation” to Kiev for the “Nord Stream – 2” (who wants to pay, no one knows what?). However, a deeper political intrigue is not excluded …

Artist Igor Yaroshenok

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