In the interview with LB.ua, the former ‘Naftogaz’ CEO Andriy Kobolev, a former Deputy Minister of Energetics Ihor Didenko, and a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lana (Olena) Zerkal spoke on the details of the ‘gas negotiations’, which took place seven years ago.
As is known, from the middle of June until December 2014, Russia cut off supplies of gas to Ukraine because of contentious gas debts. ‘Gazprom’ resumed the supplies only in December after the gas negotiations and upon signing the ‘winter package’, which included addendum to the contract on gas supplies to Ukraine and tripartite protocol on gas cooperation (between Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and the European Union).
The official negotiation group chaired by Yurii Prodan included Andriy Kobolev, Ihor Didenko, Lana Zerkal.
What did the recordings made public by Bihus.info contain?
Bihus.Info journalists claimed that Medvedchuk ‘unofficially took part’ in the Ukraine’s ‘gas negotiations’ with the Russian Federation.
The journalists informed that ‘According to the recordings and the information about Medvedchuk’s flights before the official negotiations, he visited Sochi where allegedly the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin was; later Medvedchuk visited Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller and […] Aleksandr Novikov with whom he discussed the details of the contract.’
Bigus.info asserted as well that ‘judging from the recordings, the two presidents (of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, – ed.) through the intermediary of Medvedchuk agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would not impose requirements concerning the nuances of the contract’ (i.e the price of gas would not be set in the contract).
‘Finally, the Ukrainian delegation gave up, on the next day recording Medvedchuk and Novak were laughing at Ukraine which agreed to the guaranties, which did not guarantee anything,’ Bihus.Info reported.
What did the participants of the ‘gas negotiations’ say?
- On the consistent stand of the Ukrainian authorities.
As Ihor Didenko noted in his interview with LB.ua, the Ukrainian authorities adopted a ‘consistent position’. He explained that on June 14, 2014, the negotiations took place in Kyiv and the Ukrainian party did not accept Russia’s requirements.
He said that the Russian party insisted on creating in the Ukrainian market an organ resembling ‘RosUkrEnergo’ (a joint venture between ‘Gazprom’ and Dmytro Firtash’s ‘Centragas Holding AG’, which was reselling natural gas in the territory of Ukraine; the company was liquidated in 2014).
Ihor Didenko made it clear that the then Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatseniuk set an unequivocal task to move forward in ‘the direct relations NAK-Gazprom mode’.
Ihor Didenko recalled, ‘Miller and Zurabov went […] to Poroshenko. We were sitting in Yatseniuk’s office, the direct phone from the President’s office ringed and Poroshenko said “Well, they visited me, and, yes, they hinted “RosUkrEnergo”-2 should be established, but we would strive for the direct relations only. Exclusively”. We heaved a sigh of relief’.
- On Medvedchuk’s role in the ‘gas negotiations’.
The speakers mentioned that Viktor Medvedchuk did not take part in the tripartite negotiations in Brussels.
Medvedchuk was only once present at a meeting discussing gas issue; the meeting took place in Russia in November 2014.
The then President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko authorized Andriy Kobolev and Lana Zerkal to go to the above mentioned meeting and conduct negotiations.
Medvedchuk was not an authorized member of the Ukrainian delegation, his appearance during the negotiations became a surprise for the representatives of Ukraine.
Andriy Kobolev told that ‘He (Medvedchuk – ed.) was not a member of the negotiation group on the tripartite gas package. However, there was one episode when we met him. In November 2014 the question of the Ukrainian gas storage in Crimea was raised once again […]’.
Kobolev added that Petro Poroshenko gave the Ukrainian delegation an assignment to ‘discuss the possibility of gaining back our assets in Crimea.’
Olena Zerkal said that upon arriving at the meeting in Moscow they quite unexpectedly met Medvedchuk there.
According to Kobolev, the Russian Federation representatives did not explain Medvedchuk’s presence, they just said, “he would also be there”. Our delegation had an impression he was “a part of the Russian party”.’
‘It is difficult to say who involved him. However, Medvedchuk was trying to take an active part in the negotiations on the Crimean issue […]. As far as I understood, Medvedchuk […] had to do with the organization of the meeting,’ Kobolev said.
According to Zerkal, the only result of those Moscow negotiations was the liberation of a part of the Kherson region, which the Russian Federation previously occupied. The Russians ‘themselves pulled back their troops’ to the occupied Crimea.
Zerkal also specified that Medvedchuk was very unlikely to have any influence on that decision.
- ‘Making money out of thin air’.
Andriy Kobolev said that he did not know if there had been any conversation between Medvedchuk and Poroshenko. Kobolev also pointed out that Medvedchuk’s role in the ‘gas negotiations’ was obscure and it looked like ‘making money out of thin air’.
Olena Zerkal, in her turn, noted that the claims from the recordings shared by Bihus.Info are very likely to be Medvedchuk’s manipulation.
In Ihor Didenko’s opinion, Viktor Medvedchuk wanted ‘to deceive everyone’ acting ‘in his own commercial interests.’
It is necessary to remind that according to Bihus.Info Viktor Medvedchuk was an active ‘non-public’ participant of the gas negotiations.
- Poroshenko’s role in the gas negotiations.
Answering the question if, in her opinion, ‘Petro Poroshenko authorized Medvedchuk to act in the gas negotiation’, Olena Zerkal stressed she ‘has never had such a feeling, neither then, nor now’. Andriy Kobolev said he did not notice anything suspicious during the tripartite gas negotiations.
- Did Ukrainian delegation give its consistent position up?
All three LB.ua interlocutors refuted Bihus.Info allegations that during the tripartite gas negotiations in Brussels the Ukrainian party gave up its consistent stand.
Andriy Kobolev reminded that the Ukrainian delegation’s mission was to obtain guarantees not from Russia but from the Europeans.
Kobolev mentioned the most important results achieved during the tripartite negotiations:
1) Firstly, the negotiation group achieved signing of the tripartite protocol between Ukraine, European Union, and Russian Federation. This protocol ensured ‘the stability of gas transit and payment for it,’ explained Kobolev.
2) Secondly, as Kobolev noted, thanks to the above mentioned protocol ratification Ukraine gained independence from the Russian ‘gas addiction’. From that moment on, Ukraine received access to the EU revers gas flow. ‘We became flexible, avoided crisis, preserved gas transit, negotiated lower gas price, got the necessary volume of gas, and the EU reverse gas flow,’ summarized Kobolev. He emphasized as well that the 2014 tripartite gas negotiations ‘freed both Ukrainian and European gas market from the burden, allowed to win the price dispute in an international arbitration court in Stockholm and avoid gas supply crisis.’
Olena Zerkal added that neither Medvedchuk, nor the Russian representatives understood what kind of protocol they had signed. That was her comment on Buhus.Info claim that Medvedchuk and the Russians ‘were laughing at Ukraine which agreed to the guarantees, which did not guarantee anything’ is inconsistent.