On December 19th, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual end-of-the-year press conference answering questions from hundreds of Russian, as well as foreign journalists.
There was also Ukrainian media present, such as Unian. Roman Tsymbalyuk, from UNIAN asked the following question:
“Could you name the exact date when you decide to disband the occupation administrations in Luhansk and Donetsk? Will there be a gas war?”
The Russian President gave the following answer:
“As for the Minsk agreements and the dissolution of the administrations of the unrecognized republics. Former President Poroshenko in Minsk insisted that the document be signed by the leaders of these unrecognized republics. They didn’t want to, they took me literally by the throat. We managed to persuade them to put these signatures. That is, Ukraine itself recognized them as a party to the negotiations. As for these representatives themselves, elections were held there and they were elected.
The Minsk Agreements spell out what these republics’ claims can be. There is a point that speaks of the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign troops. And about closing the border. But only after the rights of the republics are guaranteed. There are no foreign troops there. There are self-defense units from local residents. People often ask where the tanks and other equipment are from. Where does the equipment in conflict zones come from? The parties receive it from those who sympathize with them. But this is their equipment, it is not foreign.
Do you know what the main problem is? The fact that there is no desire for settlement, and so far no such thing is on the horizon. There is no need to try and create convenient conditions for a forceful solution to the problem. So, I spoke to the current Ukrainian president about the use of aviation. He asked: “What kind of aviation?” He doesn’t even know. And it was used. The Ukrainian authorities need to change their approach, it is wrong. The authorities are trying to strangle and cut off this territory from Ukraine. Blockade – is it something that we came up with in the Kremlin? You cannot solve this problem by force. You know, there is such a phrase: “The Donbass does not rush about slack”. (Comment: In the Donbass, nonsense isn’t spoken) The phrase, of course, is such a slur, but it lives in the hearts of these people. They are proud.
You said about three billion. I draw your attention to the fact that part of our reserve funds has been invested in Ukrainian securities. And there is a court decision in this regard, which is not enforced. We want to solve the gas problem. One of the justifications of the Stockholm court is in connection with the difficult economic situation in Ukraine. That is nonsense.”
One of the Stockholm Arbitration court’s justifications on the ruling on the Naftogaz and Gazprom deal, which Vladimir Putin refers to in the conclusion of his answer, is that Ukraine deserved to win, due to the complicated economic situation in the country.
The specific quote by the Stockholm Arbitration court’s decision, compares the bad economic situation that Ukraine is in, and that it could have potentially been better had Gazprom allegedly fulfilled its part of the contract.
“In this context Naftogaz notes that Article 8.6 of the Contract does not limit Naftogaz’ recovery of losses that are caused by tax costs. As acknowledged by Gazprom, by Gazprom invoking tax cost savings, a damages calculation for breach of contract simply needs to compare the actual economic situation resulting from the breach of Contract with the hypothetical situation that would have occurred had Gazprom fulfilled the Contract. Naftogaz also notes that it is specifically Gazprom’s failure to deliver and pay for the agreed volumes of natural gas during the periods when transit services were VAT exempt in Ukraine that aggravated Naftogaz’ loss. Moreover, Article 8.6 by its wording does not even deal with payments of damages for non-deliveries, being restricted to payments for actual gas transit.”
Gazprom’s CEO, Alexey Miller also made a mention of this:
“The Stockholm arbitration, guided by double standards, adopted an asymmetric decision on our contracts with Naftogaz of Ukraine regarding supply and transit of gas. The decision seriously violates the balance of interests of the parties under these contracts. The arbitrators ground their decision by the fact that the situation with the Ukrainian economy has drastically worsened. We are totally against the situation when Ukraine’s economic problems are solved at our expense. In this situation, the continuation of the contracts’ validity is not economically feasible and unprofitable for Gazprom,” Miller said.
Which is yet another bright example of the non-existence of the international law system. The application of international law cannot take into account the complicated situation in a state when regarding whether something adhered to law or not and base its decision on that.
During the press conference, Putin continued:
“But there is a solution, and we will proceed from there. Despite the construction of new pipelines, we will maintain transit through Ukraine. The issue is the volume of transit and the terms of the contract. We ourselves are interested in it, as it is convenient. The Ukrainian route is longer, but we are ready to keep it. And they are also ready to supply gas to Ukraine at a discount. I think we will agree. We will strive to ensure that the Ukrainian side is satisfied. We have no desire to aggravate the situation in the energy sector.”
The Russian President’s position on the gas transit through Ukraine is unclear. Mostly because a decision to continue transit through the country, after the considerations he mentioned would play specifically into the “hands” of Moscow’s adversaries. Since it is quite apparent that Ukraine is no longer a sovereign state, it is a US neo-colony. Thus, any actions or economic relations that would potentially leading to an additional revenue for the Ukrainian state go against Russia’s interests.
Vladimir Putin’s remarks may have been influenced by the recent sanctions on the Nord Stream 2, the court’s decision on the gas conflict with Ukraine, or a joint stance of the French and German leaders with whom he met on December 9th at the Normandy Four summit. His words are a presumed attempt to show commitment to what remains of international law, as well as a gesture of good will.
Following the question of the Ukrainian journalist, came the turn of Konstantin Panyushkin, from Russian 1TV.
“After Paris and after what your partners have said in less than three weeks, including Ukrainians, do you consider it appropriate to continue the dialogue in the agreed format? Do you think the Normandy format is needed? How do you see the future of the Minsk agreements? The future of Donbass? By the way, Zelensky spoke about you – back in Paris. Can you speak out about him?”
In his answer, Putin said that it was incorrect to give any characterizations of his colleagues and brushed the answer. He, however, provided insight on the Minsk agreements.
“There is nothing but the Minsk agreements. If they begin to review, the whole situation may come to a standstill. The key to the agreements is the law on the special status of Donbass. You also need a direct dialogue with the Donbass, which is not there. Some decisions on decentralization are being prepared. Will this replace the Minsk agreements? The agreements say that everything related to Donbass should be agreed upon with these regions.
As for the meeting in April, it will become relevant if there are positive changes. Do they exist or not? There is a Special Status Act to be extended. The withdrawal of troops. However, for some reason, our partners do not want separation along the entire line of contact. But such is their position. Furthermore, the number of shellings was reduced. Although they persist. That is, there are both positive developments and things that are alarming. We need to look for dialogue.”
Thus, Putin clearly puts quite a bit of faith in dialogue and a political settlement to the situation, and that Eastern Ukraine should reach peace, after which they should be left to decide their own future. He underlined that progress had been made, but it could be much better had it not been by predominantly questionable actions by Kiev.
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