News From Russia: January 9th, 2009!

Windows to Russia!RBC, 09.01.2009, Kiev 16:58:37.Head of the European group for monitoring naturalWindows to Russia! gas transit, a representative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, Filip Cornelis, has arrived in Ukraine, RBC Ukraine was told by the press secretary of the EC Representative Office in Ukraine, David Stulik. According to him, part of the group of experts is currently holding a meeting in Berlin to determine which sites of the gas pipeline system to visit. The group features representatives of 18 gas companies and four top-ranking European Commission employees.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Kiev 16:44:41.Gazprom representatives have been included in a European Commission group for monitoring gas transit via Ukraine, David Stulik, the press secretary of the EC Representative Office in Ukraine, announced. According to the European Commission, the first group of monitors is already on its way, and should arrive in Kiev around 3 p.m. local time.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Tskhinval 16:31:16.The South Ossetian Defense Ministry has evidence that Georgia is reinforcing its military strength along the republic’s border. According to the republic’s Deputy Defense Minister Ibragim Gasseyev, this morning’s records showed that four armored vehicles and sixteen trucks appeared near the village Mereti in the vicinity of the Prisskiye highlands in the border area. Gasseyev noted that, given twenty persons or more can be in each of the vehicles, Georgia has massed a minimum of 300 troops near Mereti, according to a statement of South Ossetia’s State Information and Press Department. Records show that Georgian military equipment and troops also appeared near the villages Atotsi, Knolevi, and Dvani, Gasseyev added.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Moscow 16:19:17.Disrupting the signing of a protocol on creating a multilateral commission on monitoring gas transit through Ukraine is another step on the part of Kiev aimed at escalating the already critical situation with Russian gas transit to Europe. Hence, because of Ukraine, the mechanism of independent monitoring and control has not been created, Gazprom said in a statement. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s reports that it acknowledges its responsibility for facilitating uninterrupted gas transit along its territory are just high-sounding words having no ground to stand on, Gazprom noted.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Moscow 15:39:53.Speaking about gas supplies to Ukraine proper, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller noted that there was no progress seen in Russian-Ukrainian talks yet. “Although the talks have resumed, my impression is that Ukrainian negotiators have no mandate and no powers whatsoever on setting any price level for 2009 or gas purchase volumes. The talks are practically not going anywhere,” Miller said during a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Kiev 15:11:03.Mirek Topolanek, prime minister of the Czech Republic which took over the EU presidency on January 1, is expected in Ukraine today to negotiate Russia’s gas transit to the EU countries via Ukraine. “Following a conversation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last night, Mirek Topolanek coordinated his today’s visit to Kiev with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko,” the European Commission reported. The aim of the visit is to discuss the details of work of the EU monitoring group and its access to gas transit facilities in Ukraine, to ensure the soonest resuming of Russia’s gas transit to Europe.”

RBC, 09.01.2009, Moscow 14:59:05.The Russian banking system witnessed a deposit inflow in December 2008, chairman of the Association of Russian Banks (ARB) Garegin Tosunian told the Echo of Moscow radio station. He noted that this was due largely to the population’s expectations. Tosunian elaborated that when people realize that no force majeure is forthcoming, they stop panicking and withdrawing money from bank accounts, as well as converting it into foreign currencies. The ARB chief, however, did not specify by how much bank deposits increased in December 2008.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Moscow 11:55:46.Ukraine must pay the market value for natural gas, while Russia is ready to pay the arm’s length price for transit, as well, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced during a meeting with international reporters. According to Putin, since Ukraine is not honoring its agreements, it should pay the market value. In this case, Russia is prepared to pay $3.4 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas transited through Ukraine. Putin stressed the need to switch to “normal, civilized market relations.” He also said he was perplexed by Ukraine’s statements insisting on receiving gas at prices that are lower than those charged to its neighbors. According to Putin, this is having a direct impact on certain economic sectors of its neighboring countries, making them uncompetitive.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Kiev 13:44:59.Ukraine has agreed that Russians will be in the commission to monitor gas transit via its territory, official spokesman for Naftogaz of Ukraine Valentin Zemlyanskiy said. According to him, European monitors will arrive in Kiev today and will be visiting gas metering stations together with their Russian colleagues.

RBC, 09.01.2009, Moscow 12:40:46.Russia will continue to further assist in expediting the cessation of the military confrontation in and around the Gaza Strip, including as part of the U.N. Security Council’s peacekeeping efforts, as well as through contacts with its international and regional partners, including Israel. As reported by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press department, the Russian presidential envoy to the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov made a statement to this effect during a meeting with Israel’s First Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday.