Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All-Out War ... Opening Another Front

"Ukraine has not made prepayment for gas on time."
"[Given the time required for Kyiv to make payment it] will result in a total end to supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine in just two days, which poses serious risks for gas transit to Europe."
Aleksei Miller, head, Gazprom, Moscow

"The four of us [Britain, France, Ukraine, Russia; ceasefire negotiators] are calling for strict implementation of all the provisions in the Minsk agreements, starting with a total ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons."
Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister
Ukrainian soldiers unload bodies of Ukrainian soldiers killed in Debaltsevo on February 24, 2015 at a checkpoint near Gorlivka. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)

"Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War."
"And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations -- lies -- whatever you want to call them about their activities there to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions."
John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State

Europe, however, should be accustomed to it. It's certainly not the first time a European winter has been disturbed by Russia's squabbles with Ukraine over gas pipeline transmission. Ukraine has even been accused in the past of siphoning off gas for its own use that was meant for Europe. And Moscow has cut gas shipments in the past, throwing its weight around, short-changing Ukraine and the European Union countries in bullying braggadocio.

Ukraine is to be made abysmally miserable by all and any means possible for its flagrant disregard of Russia's wishes. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is not to regard himself as an equal of President Vladimir Putin, not in executive governance, not in military matters, not in the oblivious belief in international respect of sovereignty issues, not in matters of trade, and certainly not in the game of one-upsmanship. The vulpine Putin reigns supreme.

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, looking on in horrified trepidation for their own sovereign integrity and future with Russia, take the example being made of Ukraine seriously indeed. Leading Lithuania to restore compulsory military service for young men beginning September. The military plans to enlist three thousand men aged 19 to 27 for nine months of service to increase its troop strength over a five-year period. Before joining NATO it had 39,000 troops to its current 15,000.

Ukraine has protested it has paid for all the gas it requested for this year, along with an additional 287 million cubic metres not yet having been ordered. Accusing Russia of violating an agreement under which Ukraine paid $3.1-billion in past gas bills leading Gazprom to resume supplies on a prepaid basis. That was Ukraine's reasonable understanding of the agreement signed in October. Ukraine expected it would be fully supplied through the winter.

Expectations don't always match reality, and the reality of the situation is that Russia has delivered gas to the regions in eastern Ukraine now under rebel control. And it is counting those deliveries toward the total that Kyiv purchased in advance. Moreover, Gazprom stated it plans to supply natural gas directly to the Donetsk region and Luhansk since the Ukrainian government had shut off supplies.

Who ever heard of a country charitably supplying energy to its territorial violators?

Ukraine, just as well, had already taken steps to reduce its Russian gas dependence. Signing a deal with Slovakia for gas already bought in Europe through a reverse piping of gas to Ukraine. And Ukraine has also bought gas from Norway as an alternative source. Europe as well has reduced its dependence on Russian gas through other suppliers, building up reserves in anticipation of just such contingencies.

As for the battlefield of violent conflict; Ukrainian military spokesman Lt. Col. Anatoliy Stelmakh stated that the rebels had shelled the town of Popasna seven times, launching one barrage on the village of Luhanske, and had also attempted to storm Ukrainian positions near the southern village of Shrokyne, close by the strategic Azov Sea port of Mariupol. The separatists claim they have moved some heavy weapons back from the front line. Who're you going to believe?

Pro-Russian separatists drive tank on road from Donetsk to Novoazovsk, Eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.

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