02/23/2009 |


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: Eurasia Daily Monitor : 6: 17
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The Role of Russian Organized Crime in the Gas War of January 2009
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 17
January 27, 2009 05:26 PM Age: 27 days
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Energy
By: Roman Kupchinsky

On January 20 Alexei Miller, the CEO of Russias state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, made an amazing confession. He told Interfax that in late December 2008, when negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on a new gas supply contract broke down, the party largely responsible for this was RosUkrEnergo (RUE), the Swiss-based middleman company that sold Central Asian gas to Ukraine.

RUE is 50 percent owned by Gazprom and 45 percent by a Ukrainian businessman, Dmytro Firtash. Yes, it is true that when the prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine agreed to a price of $235 for 1,000 cubic meters of gasRosUkrEnergo proposed paying $285. This company was betting that by making such an offer it would remain in the market, Miller stated. What Miller failed to explain is why RUE would dare undermine the Russian government.

From its inception RUE has been accused of opacity by the media and of criminality by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Most of the charges centered on Gazproms partner in RUE, Dmytro Firtash, and his alleged links to a notorious Russian mobster, Semen Mogilevich. Dmytro Firtash has denied any direct links to Mogilevich. This might be true, but the indirect links suggest that Mogilevich was indeed tied to Firtash, the Kremlin leadership, and the Ukrainian elite.

The history of RUE began in December 2002 when Firtash registered a company in Hungary named Eural Tran Gas (ETG), which signed a contract with Gazprom on December 5, 2002, becoming the middleman in the Turkmen- Ukrainian gas trade.

Strange circumstances surrounded ETGs creation: unemployed Romanians became principles of the company; an Israeli lawyer with ties to Mogilevich became a nominal director of the company; and Andras Knopp, a former Hungarian communist cultural functionary with no knowledge of the gas business became the director of the company. Even stranger was Firtashs refusal to reveal that he was the ultimate beneficiary of ETG. Soon after the contract was signed, ETG was given a $70 million loan by Gazprom Bank, which also became the guarantor of a $227 million loan to ETG by Vnesheconombank (Moscow Times, November 27, 2003).

By July 2004 media criticism of ETG forced the Kremlin to eliminate the company and create RosUkrEnergo in its place. RUE came into being during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Yalta. At that time both leaders stressed that RUE would be a fully transparent company, tacitly acknowledging media reports that ETG was opaque. One of the two co-directors of RUE was Konstantin Chuychenko, a former KGB officer, the head of Gazproms legal department, and a classmate of Dmitry Medvedev (Chuychenkos biography was posted on the Gazprom website, www.gazprom.com, but was removed after he left Gazprom to join Medvedevs administration). The other co-director was Oleg Palchykov, the former director of the ETG office in Moscow who represented Centragas, a company silently controlled by Firtash (Izvestia, April 27, 2006). Palchykovs appointment as co-director of RUE was met with a great deal of skepticism.

His [Palchykovs] candidacy was submitted by Raiffeisen Investment [the nominal owners of Centragas]; and we were unable to stop it, Alexander Ryazanov, the deputy director of Gazprom and a member of RUEs coordinating committee, told the Russian newspaper Vedomosti (www.proua.com, February 8, 2005). Why Gazprom wanted to prevent Palchykovs appointment in the first place was not clear. Gazprom had always insisted that their partners in RUE were honest, transparent businessmen. Had this view suddenly changed?

Part of the explanation could be that the Moscow ETG office Palchykov headed was located in a building on Novy Arbat 14 that was also used by an alleged mobster, Igor Fisherman, who was wanted together with Mogilevich by the FBI. According to Vedomosti on May 30, 2006, Fisherman was Firtashs partner in the purchase of 75 percent of a Russian company Zangas. The flow of money from RUE to Gazprom was also murky. Apparently it first went to a shell company in Cyprus and then on to Moscow to another shell company, Rubin (Stern, September 13, 2007). Why wasnt the money sent directly to Gazprom?

Chuychenko, Dmitry Medvedevs man in RUE, however, remained adamant in his whitewashing of Firtash and RUE. Dmytro Firtash is a very well-known figure in the gas business, Chuychenko told Ukrayina Television on December 1, 2006. He has been working in the gas business in Ukraine for a long time, so his appearance in this field was no accident.

On October 9, 2007, Medvedev made an incredible statement on the German television station ARD: We will most likely review the scheme of our relations [with Ukraine] and will end the existence of middlemen structures, which we do not fully understand. How could Medvedev, the head of Gazproms board of directors, not understand what RUE was?

Chuychenkos claims about Firtash were soon disputed by Putin, who told Interfax on January 8, 2009: 50 percent of RUE belongs to Gazprom the Ukrainian side belongs to persons we do not knowthey showed us Mister Firtash once

A controversy over massive Ukrainian debts to RUE and RUE to Gazprom heated up in January 2008, and Mogilevich was arrested in Moscow in February 2008. He was charged with aiding a Russian businessman, Vladimir Nekrasov, the alleged owner of the chain of Arbat Prestige perfume stores, in a tax evasion scheme. Documents from the Russian business registry in the possession of Jamestown, however, show that Firtash was instrumental in creating Arbat Prestige.

The day after the Ukrainian-Russian gas agreement was signed, the Russian press reported that a Moscow court had ordered that Mogilevich and Nekrasov remain in detention until March 23 (www.newsru.com/russia/21jan2009/prodlen.html, January 21). Was the timing coincidental or was it linked to RUEs debt to Gazprom?

The litany of contradictions voiced by top Russian officials in the RUE case, as well as documented evidence, suggests that organized crime is linked not only to RUE; it is a stark indication that corruption in the Kremlin has expanded since Putins election in 2000. Who stood to benefit from RUE? Putin claims it was the Ukrainian leadershipthe facts suggest otherwise.


Search Results
Yushchenko Criticizes Tymoshenko for Gas Accords and Plea for Loan from Moscow
February 19, 2009

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of betraying national interests in the gas agreements concluded in Moscow on January 19 and 20 and by turning to Russia for a loan. Yushchenko used...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Ukraine, Domestic/Social, Energy
Gongadze Murder Still Casts a Shadow over Yushchenko Presidency
February 18, 2009

On January 27 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued another damning report about the poor state of Ukraine's investigation into the murder of opposition journalist Georgi Gongadze in the fall of 2000...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Domestic/Social, Ukraine
Tymoshenko Defeats Yanukovych in Parliament
February 11, 2009

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on February 5. The motion was backed by 203 votes, 23 short of the number required in the 450-seat chamber to oust the government. This was...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Ukraine, Domestic/Social
Putin Retains Initiative in the Gas Dialogue with Europe
February 9, 2009

The annual security conference held in Munich last weekend should have attracted the prime attention in Moscow, not least because U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden delivered the first presentation of the Obama administration's arms...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Energy
Who Owns the Gas in Ukraine's Underground Reservoirs?
February 6, 2009

The gas dispute that left half of Europe without gas in early January was officially settled by accords signed by Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy in Moscow on January 19 and 20. The clash, however, is apparently not over. Ukrainian...
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Ukrainian Chief Banker in Legal Limbo
January 30, 2009

The Ukrainian parliament has exacerbated both the political and economic crises in Ukraine by voting to dismiss National Bank (NBU) head Volodymyr Stelmakh. Consequently, it is not clear who is running the central bank in a...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Ukraine, Domestic/Social
The Role of Russian Organized Crime in the Gas War of January 2009
January 27, 2009

On January 20 Alexei Miller, the CEO of Russias state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, made an amazing confession. He told Interfax that in late December 2008, when negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on a new gas supply...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Energy
Russias Sinking Economy and Wandering Politics
January 26, 2009

The high-intensity but low-yield gas war with Ukraine allowed the Russian leadership to engage in the bargaining and blackmailing that it thrives on. Now that Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko have struck a...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Economics
The 18-Day Gas War Why was it fought? Who Won?
January 20, 2009

A preliminary, and possibly premature, report of the 18-day Russian-Ukrainian Gas War of January 2009 might read as follows:This war should never have taken place. The conflict had little to do with commercial disagreements...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Ukraine, Energy, Home Page, Featured
Commentary: The Russia-Ukraine Gas Crisis: The Big Picture
January 19, 2009

By now it should be clear that there is no quick fix for the current Europe-wide energy debacle caused by the vicious Russian-Ukrainian spat. Behind the seemingly intractable dispute over debts, gas pricing, and terms of transit...
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Gazprom's War Has Damaged Russian Interests
January 19, 2009

It was hardly a surprise when Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko, both dressed in black, solemnly announced an agreement to end the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict in the wee hours of Sunday. The "war"...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Ukraine, Russia, Energy
Russian-Ukrainian Gas Crisis Fuelled by National Identity
January 16, 2009

Western media coverage of the latest Ukrainian-Russian gas crisis has largely ignored the national identity component of the conflict, and yet this is the main factor fuelling poor relations between Ukraine and Russia....
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Gazproms Destabilization Plan for Ukraine and Southeast Europe
January 16, 2009

When the tense horse trading among the EU, Ukraine and Russia about allowing EU monitors to observe how Russia was renewing the flow of gas to Europe and how Ukraine was transporting this gas ended on January 13, most Western...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Ukraine, Energy, Home Page, Featured
Ukrainian Law Bars Transferring Ownership of the Gas Transit System
January 15, 2009

Gaining some form of control over Ukraines state-owned gas transit system has been a constant objective of Russian policy since the 1990s. That 30-year-old systems worn-out condition, its mismanagement, and the insolvency of...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vlads Corner, Ukraine, Energy
Russia Seeks Control of Ukraines Gas Transit System Through a Consortium
January 15, 2009

Russia and some circles in Germany are reactivating the idea of a consortium to control Ukraines gas transit system. Moscow hopes to profit from the crisis atmosphere it has itself created since January 1 by stopping gas...
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vlads Corner, Russia, Ukraine, Energy

Displaying results 1 to 15 out of 458 Next >


  • 2009.02.24 | Hadjibei

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      William Geimer founded the Jamestown Foundation in 1984 after Arkady Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet Union official ever to defect when he left his position as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, defected in 1978

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      Geimer had been working closely with Shevchenko, and established the foundation as a vehicle to promote the writings of the former Soviet diplomat and those of Ion Pacepa, a former top Romanian intelligence officer; with the help of Geimer and the foundation, both defectors published bestselling books

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      Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William J. Casey, a leading figure in national security organizations, helped back the formation of The Jamestown Foundation, agreeing with its complaints that the U.S. intelligence community did not provide sufficient funding of Soviet bloc defectors



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      * Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief, 1987. ISBN 0-89526-570-2
      * Red Horizons: the 2nd Book. The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescus Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption, 1990. ISBN 0-89526-746-2
      * The Kremlin Legacy, 1993
      * Cartea neagră a Securităţii, Editura Omega, Bucharest, 1999. ISBN 9-73987-454-1
      * Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, 2007. ISBN 1-56663-769-1


      * The Arafat I Knew, 2002
      * The KGBs Man, 2003
      * Khaddafis Conversion, 2003
      * Ex-spy fingers Russians on WMD, 2003
      * From Russia With Terror, March 1, 2004
      * No Peter the Great, September 20, 2004
      * Putins Duality, August 5, 2005
      * Left-Wing Monster: Ceausescu, February 10, 2006
      * Who Is Raúl Castro? A tyrant only a brother could love., August 10, 2006
      * Russian Footprints, August 24, 2006
      * Tyrants and the Bomb, October 17, 2006
      * The Kremlins Killing Ways, November 28, 2006
      * Propaganda Redux , August 7, 2007

      : | 1928 | | |

      • 2009.02.24 |

        • 2009.02.24 |







          The 18-Day Gas War Why was it fought? Who Won?
          Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 12
          January 20, 2009 03:01 PM Age: 34 days
          Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Russia, Ukraine, Energy, Home Page, Featured
          By: Roman Kupchinsky

          Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

          A preliminary, and possibly premature, report of the 18-day Russian-Ukrainian Gas War of January 2009 might read as follows:

          This war should never have taken place. The conflict had little to do with commercial disagreements between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainythese were resolved by the Memorandum of Agreement signed on October 2, 2008, by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko. For unknown reasons this agreement was never allowed to enter into force until January 19, when Putin and Tymoshenko essentially agreed to abide once again by its provisions. The new contract between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy is for 10 years; and the price for Russian gas, or more precisely Central Asian gas sold by Gazprom to Ukraine, will be based on the generally accepted formula used throughout Europe which links the price of gas to the price of diesel fuel plus transportation costs. Ukraine will receive a 20 percent discount on this price in 2009 and will pay the full European price in 2010. Russia will continue to pay a discounted price for the transit of gas to Europe until 2010, at which time it will begin paying European gas transit prices (Ukrayinska Pravda, January 18).

          The War was instigated by Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who decided that the time was ripe to discredit Ukraine in the eyes of European leaders by launching a huge public relations and disinformation campaign to convince the EU that Ukraine was an unreliable transit country. By turning off the gas spigot to Europe on January7 and blaming this on the Ukrainians, Moscow began systematically blackmailing Europe into supporting Russias plans to build the North Stream and South Stream pipelines. This argument became the central theme at press conferences by Putin and Deputy CEO of Gazprom Alexander Medvedev during the Gas War (see www.gazpromukrainefacts.com, the Gazprom website designed to discredit Ukraine).

          One major goal of the Russian leadership during the conflict was to discredit and denigrate the freely elected, pro-Western Ukrainian leadership and provide a measure of support for the pro-Russian opposition Party of the Regions. The greater gamble was an attempt by Russia to cut off gas supplies to the Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine by attempting to manipulate the re-opening of gas supplies to Europe, using the Potemkin village ploy of opening only one gas entry station to Ukraine. Had the Ukrainian government agreed to this, it would have been forced to stop supplying gas to the highly industrialized and heavily pro-Russian Eastern and Southern regions of the country, thereby leaving itself open to mass discontent (EDM, January 16).

          Putins outlandishly abusive statements about the Ukrainian leadership throughout the conflict were not overlooked by the European Union. His off-the-cuff derogatory remarks calling Yushchenko a thief (Kommersant, October 2, 2008) and his liberal use of disinformation did more to bury the Russian public relations effort than anything else. Putin showed himself to be a vindictive and arrogant leader which forced the EU to unite in its response to the crisis.

          The War finally compelled the EU to do what its critics have been urging the organization to do for yearsto speak to Moscow with one voice and not allow itself to be outmaneuvered by the Kremlin-Gazprom (Kremlingaz) team. In the early stages of the War, the EU made one large mistakeit agreed with Kremlingazs version that the dispute was merely commercial. Once Gazproms spokesmen took to the microphones in London and Brussels and Putin began his Ukraineophobic libel campaign, it became abundantly clear that commerce had little to do with the dispute.

          In a last ditch effort, Kremlingaz believed that by calling a summit of gas consuming countries in Moscow on January 18, it could once again impose its version of events and continue playing the Europeans off one against the other. This time the EU told its members not to attend and that the EU commission would handle all the talks with Kremlingaz. This stance, along with powerful reprimands of Russian behavior by Angela Merkel and other European leaders made the Russians not only lose face but realize that their game plan was a losing one. Putin and Medvedev had suffered a major blow. Not only did Kremlingaz lose almost $2 billion in revenue (Vedomosti, January 19), Gazproms highly touted reputation as a reliable supplier vanished in 18 days.

          The War once again showed that the Ukrainian leadership had dismally failed to take any steps to improve the countrys enormous energy inefficiency. Moreover, its standard backroom deals with Kremlingaz on gas prices were bizarre and opaque. The Ukrainian leadership had always insisted on buying gas at a set price not linked to the fluctuations of oil prices or to the laws of supply and demand. When Tymoshenko agreed to sign a gas contract based on real prices on January 19, the shock for Ukraines oligarchs must have been overwhelming. Their subsidized profiteering had come to an end.

          The only winner in the War was RosUkrEnergo (RUE), the Swiss middleman firm created by Putin and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma in 2004. The January 19 contract removed RUE as the intermediary, but this will not lead to its demise. After years of swearing that RUE was absolutely clean, the Kremlin suddenly began denouncing its own creation as a corrupt entity, despite the fact that Gazprom owned 50 percent of the company. In fact, by early 2008 Gazprom, the 50 percent owner of RUE, knew that Turkmenistan would begin selling its gas at European prices in 2009 and this would destroy RUEs profit margin for resale of the gas to its European clients. As a result there was no reason to maintain RUE as a middleman.

          In anticipation of this, RUE began buying up lucrative Ukrainian domestic gas distribution companies in 2008. On January 11 RUE co-owner, Dmytro Firtash, told Vedomosti that RUE controlled 75 percent of Ukraines highly lucrative domestic gas distribution network, which would make up for the loss of their sales to the EU. Thus the sun kept shining on RUE and it should be able to thrive for years if the Ukrainian and Russian authorities allow it to.

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