22 may 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, gave statements to the press following their meeting in Astana


Yulia Tymoshenko: First, I would like to say a few words about today's CIS heads of Government meeting. It was a very important event. One feels that the real significance of this cooperation grows with every passing year. Particularly during the economic crisis, programmes of economic cooperation are appearing between countries, unlike anything we have seen before. 

The fact that today's heads of Government meeting lasted a record time testifies to the fact that vital issues were being discussed - issues which are interesting and useful for everyone. Today in the general meeting of heads of Government of CIS countries, we approved documents that will continue to develop the format of our economic cooperation.

It is also pleasing that all the CIS countries' heads of Government agreed with my proposal that the next meeting should be held in the Crimea, in November, so we will continue our discussion in Ukraine.

Mr Putin and I also had a short conversation about our cooperation. We discussed those questions that we currently consider important for cooperation between our countries in all the sectors outlined at the last meeting of Committee on Economic Cooperation.

Of course, it is above all, the energy sector. We talked through the issues regarding the steady operation of gas transport systems, and the through flow of gas to the storage facilities. All issues are under discussion. We have not yet made any decisions, but I believe that we will find a compromise that will ensure the steady operation of the gas transport system throughout the autumn-winter period.

In addition to that, we talked about all questions relating to battling the economic crisis in our countries. We see where we need to cooperate, and how we can build up our relationship so that the crisis, which is now hitting both Ukraine and Russia very hard, thanks to our cooperation, becomes less severe and gradually recedes. Although there is a degree of optimism, nonetheless we do think that the crisis will continue throughout 2009-2010. Our countries need to be prepared for this.

I see, in our cooperation, in the renewal of cooperation, and in the revitalisation of trade turnover, those features which will counteract the crisis and strengthen both our countries. That is why I would like to thank Mr Putin for the fact that, as always, our meeting was constructive, as always we acted very pragmatically, making the correct decisions for both our countries. I think this is an example of good practice between our two countries that has already become established.

Vladimir Putin: I can only say that I agree with this opinion of our work during the summit of the CIS heads of Government. We have really had a very pragmatic discussion on practical matters of shared interest in a very good, friendly and businesslike atmosphere.

As for bilateral relations, there are crisis-related problems there, as we said at the beginning of our meeting. Energy problems dominated the agenda, as they always do. You are aware of the controversies around the through flow of gas to the storage facilities, which Ms Tymoshenko has just mentioned. Gas needs to be pumped in urgently because the Ukrainian economy and public utilities will not survive the autumn and winter without it.

Approximately 15 billion cubic metres of gas is taken from underground storages in a year. Gas for Ukrainian domestic consumers is also taken from the pipeline using a sophisticated technology. I repeat, the Ukrainian economy will not keep afloat without gas from underground storages-which means it must be pumped in immediately because it will be impossible technologically to pump it in later. The necessary amount costs roughly $5 billion-$4.7 or 4.8 billion, to be more precise.

Payments are an important issue, certainly. It is hard to afford such a sum during a crisis. We know that. We have discussed the possibility of payments going towards future Russian gas transits to European consumers via Ukraine.

It is a long-term matter, up to five years. Certainly, Russia is running great risks with the upcoming presidential election and everything pertaining to tentative reorganisation of Ukrainian gas transportation structures.

We can only regret about new predicaments: As we have found out recently, President Yushchenko considers this payment system inadmissible and verging on illegality.

I call the two countries' public to take note of that because it is hardly possible to settle whatever problems in such conditions-let alone problems involving such great risks.

What we need is a consolidated position of the Ukrainian leadership. Even that does not mean, however, that all relevant problems will be settled because they imply huge amounts, long crediting terms, and great risks. However, negotiations are continuing. Ukraine has formulated its proposals. We will study them with the utmost attention and resume contacts as soon as possible to determine what to do next about the problem.

Vladimir Kondratyev (NTV): Where will the money for gas pumping come from-Russia or the West? This question is for both Prime Ministers.

Yulia Tymoshenko: I think gas will be pumped in.

Vladimir Putin: We have addressed the European Commission, as I said before. The Commissioner for Finance says there is no money for Ukraine. Still, Ukraine shares the problem with Russia because normal supplies to Ukrainian consumers are an essential condition for transits to Europe as we saw during the crisis at the beginning of this year. We all should realise it and bear our share of responsibility. No one should pretend that it does not concern him. Russia is ready to contribute to the settlement of this issue-but only contribute to it, not bear the entire burden. What this contribution should be will be determined in the course of  negotiations.