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    Path Clear for More Gas Talks: Naftogaz Exec


Naftogaz's director believes there are no more obstacles to talks between Ukraine, Russia and the EU now that Ukraine's snap parliamentary elections are over.

by: Joseph Murphy

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Path Clear for More Gas Talks: Naftogaz Exec

With Ukrainian parliamentary elections now over, the road is clear for talks to resume on continuing Russian gas transit via Ukraine post-2019, an executive director of Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz said on July 24.

Preliminary results show a decisive victory in Ukraine’s July 21 snap parliamentary elections for the Servant of the People (SN) party of the president, Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the central election commission, 99.45% of votes had been counted as of early afternoon that day. SN commanded a resounding lead with 43.17% of votes, while the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life (OPFL) had 13%, Fatherland had 8.18%, European Solidarity had 8.11% and Holos had 5.83%.

"If the Russian side was waiting for the outcome of the parliamentary elections for holding the next round of trilateral talks on transit from 2020, then these results are already clear,” Naftogaz’s Yuriy Vitrenko wrote on Facebook.

He noted that OPFL party would not join a ruling coalition, alluding to its poor performance in the elections, and that its leader Yuriy Boyko would not become prime minister.

“Dreams do not always come true,” he wrote, suggesting Moscow would be disappointed with the outcome. There are therefore no more “obstacles” to fixing a date for the next round of talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission (EC) on gas transit, he said. Russia had delayed talks until the political landscape had become better defined in Kiev. However a new European Commission is also to be set up.

Vitrenko cautioned that reaching an agreement would depend on whether Russia adopted a “constructive position” in talks, or whether it continued to stall for time until its Nord Stream 2 pipeline was completed.

The 55bn m³ Nord Stream 2 under the Baltic Sea is tentatively scheduled to start up by the end of this year, the same point at which Russia’s long-term gas transit contract with Ukraine is due to expire. Moscow hopes that the Nord Stream 2’s launch will strengthen its hand in negotiations for a new agreement.

Vitrenko noted that technical consultations needed to take place involving EC experts to prepare a draft interconnection agreement between Russia an Ukraine; discuss Gazprom booking transit capacity through Ukraine; and possibly draw up a gas swap contract between Gazprom and Naftogaz. This might mean that gas would not technically transit Ukraine, but that deliveries in the east would be matched by exports to Europe in the west. Only after these steps are taken can agreements be made at a political level, he said.

Kiev, Moscow and Brussels held their last trilateral talks on gas transit in January, after which the European Union's commissioner in charge of the energy union, Maros Sefcovic, returned to Slovakia to campaign in the national elections.