Today, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia of stealing Ukraine’s gas from storage facilities in Crimea. Yatseniuk alleged that Moscow purloined roughly 2.2 billion cubic meters of gas, worth about $1 billion. Reuters reports:
With newfound confidence inspired by the election of a Ukrainian president at the weekend, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said gas talks with Russia could not progress until he heard Moscow’s response on giving back the 2.2 billion cubic metres of gas which he said was taken when the country’s Black Sea region was annexed by Russia in March. […]“We want to hear a response from Russia … on the question of returning to Ukraine 2.2 billion cubic metres of gas which Russia stole through Chernomornaftogaz on the territory of (Crimea),” Yatseniuk told a televised session of his cabinet.He did not explain the source of that figure but Kiev had referred earlier to a similar figure held in storage in Crimea.
Though at first blush this seems like a bit of rhetorical jiujitsu worthy of Vladimir Putin, haggling over gas stored in Crimea may not be the best move in the playbook for Ukraine. As Vladislav Inozemtsev argued over the weekend, it would be better for Kiev’s authorities to focus on improving their lot while neither recognizing the loss of territory nor contesting Russian annexation. For now, it would be wiser for Ukraine’s new government to be playing the long game.