After a pre-payment of $378 million to Gazprom, gas will flow into Ukraine once again after Russia cut all gas deliveries to Ukraine in June over a pricing and debt dispute. Relations on this issue were overshadowed by the civil war that broke out, and Kiev, short on money as it is, had to borrow a significant amount (almost $18 billion) from the International Monetary Fund, to not only keep its military in operation but also to keep the state gas company, Naftogaz, solvent.
After Naftogaz and Gazprom agreed to a debt repayment schedule in October and payments (painfully) proceeded, Gazprom made preparations to turn the gas back on upon receipt of the pre-payment, good for the first 1 billion cubic meters. Ukraine is one of the largest customers of Russian gas, with annual imports of almost 30 billion cubic meters and with winter already upon the population, it had been relaying on the largesse of German re-exported Russian gas to keep its street lamps lit and homes heated. Gazprom has consistently made the demand that Kiev must pay for its gas in advance, and despite German opposition to supply disruption, they have been able to largely set the terms of the agreement that is currently in place.
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- Donetsk People’s Republic spokesman Denis Pushilin suggested that the next peace settlement meeting take place in Minsk on Friday, December 12, citing staunch opposition to the proposed idea of having representatives of the United States and the European Union involved. With the ceasefire that has taken been in place since September 5 breaking down, the pressure is on both Kiev and rebel groups to meet once again in Minsk to shore up the faltering peace process.
- Kazakhstan celebrated its independence day yesterday, marking the 24th anniversary of its independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Nursultan Nazarbayev has been President ever since. Various countries called the premier to congratulate the country, including Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, whose courtesy is expected after the inauguration of the Kazakhstan Persian Gulf railway.
- Human Rights Watch urged the United States to address Uzbekistan’s human rights record during bilateral talks between the two countries last week. New ambassador Pamela Spratlen, during her own testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval to the post of ambassador to Uzbekistan, focused mainly on the security situation with relation to neighboring Afghanistan, and secondly on its energy and mineral resources as a source of economic foreign direct investment, only coming to human rights issues last in her opening statement.
- Turkmenistan has slashed subsidies for its domestic energy industry. On November 20, Turkmenistan’s state news service, after noting that Turkmenistan is one of the only countries in the world that provides its population with gas, electricity, and water free of charge, that subsidies should be coming to an end. Despite the “free” utilities, Turkmenistan’s government is one of those with the highest rates of social transfers via taxes in the region. The article speculates that the reason domestic subsidies are being slashed is that export requirements are starting to create pressure on the nascent energy industry.
- A reporter from the Washington Post, Jason Rezaian, who was imprisoned in Iran in July was charged by Iranian authorities in a 10-hour court session on Saturday. The family of Rezaian, who hold both American and Iranian citizenships, have petitioned for his release from Ayatollah Khamenei. Secretary of State John Kerry also issued his own personal condemnation.