RIA Novosti: Russian pundits differ on Putin-Yanukovych deal

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(RIA Novosti – Moscow, December 18, 2013) Political experts polled by RIA Novosti see some benefits for Russia in the agreements it has signed with Ukraine but think the benefits are insufficient and expect response measures from Kyiv.

A session of the Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission took place in Moscow on Tuesday [17 December], chaired by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yanukovych. A number of agreements were signed at the session, namely that Russia would lower the price of gas sold to Ukraine to 268.5 dollars per 1,000 cu.m. and buy 15bn dollars’ worth of Ukraine-issued Eurobonds.

Overall benefits

Pundit Vyacheslav Nikonov believes that Russia and Ukraine have made an important step towards rapprochement at the negotiations. “I think it was a very important step taken by Russia and Ukraine. I would note the work done to remove customs barriers, which could boost trade, creating a major asset for both the Russian and the Ukrainian economy,” Nikonov said.

Talking about the agreements on gas, Nikonov said they opened up an opportunity for Russia and Ukraine to carry out joint projects in the gas sector. “Ukraine is turning into a reliable transit country and a partner in oil and gas projects. The price cut is compensated for by mutually beneficial cooperation and an increase in the volumes of said cooperation,” Nikonov said.

Talking about Russia’s loan to Ukraine, he said that the decision may be beneficial for Russia as well [as Ukraine]. “Concerning the loan to Ukraine, I think it is more beneficial for Russia to credit Ukraine’s economy than that of the USA, in which we already have [invested] 160bn dollars. Payback on a higher interest rate in Ukraine is better than on a low rate in the USA,” he said.

Response measures

For their part, pundits Pavel Svyatenkov and Mikhail Remizov said that Ukraine should take response measures.

“So far, it looks like one-sided concessions on Russia’s part… Logic dictates that Ukraine should take response measures but nothing of the sort has been reported. Perhaps there are some behind-the-stage agreements,” Svyatenkov said

The president of the National Strategy Institute [Remizov] agreed with his colleague, noting that agreements on joint ventures, for instance in the aerospace industry, could be regarded as adequate response measures.

“I did not see any response action on Yanukovych’s part, it has not been made public… It could take the form of joint ventures but we are not hearing anything about that either. A loan secured by assets would be acceptable, but this loan is secured by securities,” Remizov said.

The pundit added that Russia was suffering publicity damage from these agreements. “It is an image loss and it is a loss in practical policy terms. So far it looks like what people have been accusing Russia of: buying a delay of Ukraine’s EU integration,” Remizov said.

Svyatenkov added that the signing of the accords did not guarantee that Ukraine would give up on its euro-integration plans. “There are no guarantees they would refuse, Yanukovych cannot guarantee that,” Svyatenkov …