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The logic of Yulia Timoshenko verdict

The seven-year prison term handed down to Ukraine’s ex-prime minister by the court means readiness of Viktor Yanukovich’s team to stake everything and risk simultaneously its relations with the EU, the USA and Russia. The loudly declared plans on European integration are now suspended. The potential of confrontation against Gazprom and Vladimir Putin over new conditions of a gas contract is sharply rising.

The reconstructed logic of Ukrainian authorities approximately looks like that: to pressurize partners as much as possible, blackmailing them by claims that they need Ukraine more than it needs them. As far as the EU is concerned, Yanukovich’s team hopes the Europeans will pursue their realpolitik – many politicians in the European Union are rather discontented with Putin’s return to the Kremlin and his statements about prospects of formation of a Eurasian union. Kiev believes that the fear of the “Putin expansion” will make the EU forgive Yanukovich for all his deviations from democracy for the sake of distancing from Russia. Alexander Lukashenko counted on the same logic for many years from time to time portraying himself as fighter against Russia’s imperial ambitions. However, the EU cannot completely eliminate the value component from its policies, e.g. the European Union did not recognize the 2010 presidential elections in Belarus. However, many experts who countered expansion of Russia’s influence on the post-Soviet area were pretty sure that the EU would definitely recognize the Belarusian elections just to avoid Lukashenko throwing himself into the Kremlin’s arms. So, the EU may not yield to the Ukrainian blackmailing and completely refuse moral and value aspects of its cooperation with Ukraine.

In the case of Russia, the Yanukovich team also assumes that uninterrupted operation of Ukrainian transit facilities is currently much more important for Russia than possible profits from preserving relatively high gas prices for Ukraine. Another suspension of gas supplies will indeed become a serious blow on Gazprom, as its current contracts oblige the Russian concern, in any case, to supply gas to consumers to points of acceptance located in European countries. According to these contracts, the problem of a transit state is a problem of a supplier. However, one has to understand that the Russian side, like the EU, may demonstrate firmness; it is also able to risk and stake everything. Should Ukraine dare to cut off transit having declared contracts signed by Timoshenko void and having received no discount on gas purchased from Gazprom, Moscow may use the new arguments to again start promoting the idea of unreliability of Ukraine, where, “as the European have just witnessed”, the law is not respected. In this case, there will be a good chance to convince the EU of the necessity to lay South Stream and provide it with exception from the Third Energy Package antimonopoly rules.

By Stanislav Mitrakhovich, NESF leading expert

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