© RIA Novosti / Stringer
The Ukrainian leadership is frantically looking for ways to get through the coming heating season in the face of an almost complete lack of coal reserves, rather modest gas reserves, unprecedented energy prices and largely disrupted preparations for winter from a technical point of view. Moreover, of course, we are not talking about the search for money and the urgent purchase of energy resources, about abandoning the predatory pricing scheme on the gas market or about speeding up technical preparation – that is, about normal solutions to the problem. More exotic options are being considered: from whom and how to squeeze out something, so that due to this, the winter will pass, and not offend yourself.
The practical embodiment of the slogan “Rob the loot” is becoming very popular for today’s Ukraine, since there are fewer and fewer opportunities to divide the newly produced goods due to the reduction of most types of production. But how much it will help to get through the winter is a big question.
Yuriy Vitrenko, head of Naftogaz of Ukraine, came up with an absolutely excellent plan to save Ukraine from an energy collapse this winter. Pan Vitrenko is generally a treasure trove of exotic “transitional” ideas: what are the wishes expressed by him in recent months with the help of the European Union to force Russia to transport Central Asian gas or forcibly transfer the gas transmission point by Gazprom under existing contracts with European counterparties to the Russian-Ukrainian border or a demand to European companies this autumn to book transit capacities of Ukraine “for the long term” for Russian gas supplies.
Now he decided to descend from the global scale to the local level, but did not change his craving for exoticism.
The plan, already presented to President Zelenskiy, includes two key steps.
First, the president, with the help of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), is invited to “make a decision on the imposition of sanctions against legal entities that own shares of operators of gas distribution networks (regional gas) and are associated with Dmitry Firtash, as well as against persons who have illegally received control over OJSC “Cherkassigaz”. In parallel, it is planned that “Naftogaz” will voluntarily and compulsorily buy out shares in other regional gas companies and, accordingly, will ensure the change of management in them. That is, in fact, we are talking about the nationalization of all regional gas companies and their concentration under the roof ” Naftogaz “.
In Ukraine today, it is oblgas gas distribution networks (gas pipelines of medium and low pressure) that deliver blue fuel to end consumers, receiving it from main gas pipelines. The total length of gas distribution networks is about 347 thousand kilometers. By the way, the networks themselves have not been formally privatized and are only managed by regional gas companies.
More than half of the gas distribution enterprises either belong directly to Dmitry Firtash, or he is their co-owner. Vitrenko suggests simply squeezing these companies out.
It is proposed to act more humanely with the rest of the network owners by offering them some money for their assets. If they stick around, then heavy artillery, represented by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the State Bureau of Investigation, should join the battle, which should investigate the specifics of the privatization of regional gas companies and thereby convince their owners to give up their assets. Moreover, the regional gas companies were indeed privatized with the maximum number of violations and a phenomenal scale of corruption. True, in a number of cases after that, a change in their owners has already taken place.
However, the squeezing out of the regional gas companies does not solve the problem of gas shortage and money for its purchase: it only gives Vitrenko full control over the point cutoff of gas supplies to consumers.
Therefore, secondly, he proposes to squeeze 48 billion hryvnia from the “Operator of the Gas Transportation System of Ukraine” (OGTSU), a state-owned company that is an operator of main gas pipelines, created in accordance with the requirements of the EU’s Third Energy Package and engaged in the transportation of Russian gas to Europe. For which she receives full-fledged dollars from Gazprom. Actually, Vitrenko plans to lay a paw on the money for transit – both on the 28 billion hryvnia already in the company’s accounts, and on the 20 billion that will come in the future. So far, it is assumed that OGTSU will receive them on credit and will also transfer them to Naftogaz. Whether at the same time OGTSU will be able to maintain transit capacities in a serviceable condition, the great combiner Vitrenko is not interested. Although the transit of gas is one of the last hens in Ukraine, laying, if not golden, but at least some eggs. He plans to impose the obligation to transfer these amounts to Naftogaz to OGTSU by introducing very specific changes in tax legislation.
However, the game called “Plunder the Loot” can be played together. This is clearly hinted at by Igor Kolomoisky, who has been controlling the subsidiary of Naftogaz, OAO Ukrnafta, for many years. He is actively and not unsuccessfully promoting through the courts a lawsuit against Naftogaz to recover from the latter nine billion cubic meters of gas allegedly seized from Ukrnafta in 2007-2013.
This story is extremely murky, but last year Kolomoisky has already managed to gobble up Naftogaz, with the help of the state leadership, an equally sophisticated scheme. Then, to pay off its tax debt, Ukrnafta adopted a separate law, according to which Naftogaz transferred most of the money for these purposes. These funds (20 billion hryvnia) were transferred in advance towards future gas supplies for 13-14 years!
Such a unique option of paying off the debt to the state (at the expense of the state itself) seems absolutely incredible, but it did take place. And, taking into account the almost son’s concern of the President of Ukraine for Igor Kolomoisky, it is probably impossible to exclude another unique case in which nine billion cubic meters of gas will be transferred from Naftogaz to Ukrnafta. It should only be added that on the eve of winter, Naftogaz has a total of about ten billion cubic meters of active gas.
In a word, no matter in whose favor this winter the game “Rob the plundered” around gas unfolds in Ukraine, it will obviously proceed with fervor and sparkle. It is not only a fact that all Ukrainian consumers will be able to take advantage of the fire from the burning gas this winter.
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