As heavy military equipment is seen retreating from the front-line with the Ukrainian blue and gold flag fluttering in the wind, Ukraine is now faced with the economic challenge of paying for Russian gas that costs in excess of $15 million a day. It appears that both sides of this conflict are making a show of abiding by the Minsk agreement this round by withdrawing arms, but that does not mean that tensions are any less. Issues that have plagued the two nation’s relationship since last year continue.
Following this cease-fire Ukraine must now reestablish its energy relationship with Russia. This has been a relationship riddled with problems in the past and if this conflict is indicative of future relations, it will continue to be troubled. Last year Russia cut-off gas supply to Ukraine from June through December due to unpaid debts. Ukraine suggests this is evidence that they could go months without Russian supply again, but Russia sees things from a different perspective.
The $15 million dollars prepaid for gas, as required by Russia for Ukraine to receive this natural resource, is supposed to be delivered to all of Ukraine. There are hints that Ukraine may not supply gas to the eastern part of Ukraine where the majority of the population is Russian speaking. Russia calls this borderline genocide and said they are hesitant to supply gas to Ukraine if they are not going to share it with all of the country.
If Russia does cut-off the gas to Ukraine other issues arise. Countries like Poland and Turkey have offered to supply Ukraine with gas via reverse flow. This means that after each of these nations receive their share of gas from Russia, they will then send a portion back through the pipes to Ukraine to help supplement their shortage. Russia as reported that this is not appropriate and they may consider this gas as being owed to them by Ukraine.
Another concern by the Russian energy giant Gazprom is that Ukraine will simply syphon gas from the pipeline as Russia delivers gas to other countries in Europe over Ukrainian territory. Ukraine contends that last year when they were cut-off from gas they allowed the delivery of gas without stealing any and the same would be true this time if the situation comes to that.
As the heavy weapons withdraw from the frontline they are being monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) who needs to take inventory of what each side has. 451 civilians are trying to conduct this process but it is a daunting task. They feel this must be done effectively in order to know what each side has and where it is going so that if future military maneuvers ensue, the movements of this machinery can be better tracked.
Ukraine is dependent on Russia for gas and the prepaying of $15 million, although it may only last for day, it will postpone their gas supply being cut-off. Although the fighting has not completely stopped and it is reported that shelling is still heard in the background, most in the region are in good spirits for the time being.
By Joel Wickwire