Like a rapist who wants his victim to pay his cab fare, Putin’s Russia wants Ukraine to provide free gas to the occupied cities and regions he has conquered. Ukraine may be gearing up to say ‘enough is enough’. The FT:
Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, is warning about its ability to continue supplying the country’s rebellious eastern regions as losses mount from unpaid bills.
Andriy Kobolyev, chief executive, said the company was suffering a “heavy financial burden” by keeping gas flows running to the breakaway cities of Donetsk and Lugansk and that the possibility of halting deliveries was “being discussed at the highest political level in Ukraine”.Mr Kobolyev’s comments reflect the company’s worsening strain as a conflict with pro-Russian rebels takes its toll on an already shaky Ukrainian economy. Naftogaz has estimated it stands to lose almost $1bn over 12 months if deliveries remained effectively free.Yet they also amount to a veiled threat by Kiev to seize on one of its few sources of leverage over the separatist rebels. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, has warned in recent days that the country’s security was deteriorating and that Kiev should prepare for a “scenario of total war”.
Ukraine can’t afford to make strategic mistakes and is too dependent on its (reluctant) allies in Europe and the U.S. to go freelancing off on an issue like this, but it makes no sense at all for Ukraine to pay the gas bills for Putin occupied territory.It’s tricky, because the Ukrainian government correctly views the citizens of the occupied territories as Ukrainian nationals and the government doesn’t want to add to their suffering. But Russia needs to pay the full price for its behavior in Ukraine and sticking it with the gas bill for the occupied lands is ultimately necessary.Ukraine and its Western allies should be working closely together on this. Are they?