After talks near Moscow with Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister, has expressed outrage at reports that Ukraine supplied arms and technicians to Georgia before the recent war. He added that if such reports were confirmed, they constituted a “crime”. (photo, from bbc.co.uk)
His Ukrainian counterpart said she was confident the reports would prove unfounded.
They both agreed to soften the blow of switching to market rates for supplying Russian gas to Ukraine.
They signed an energy memorandum meant to act as the basis for future gas negotiations, though they did not mention any figures at their meeting.
“The parties confirmed their willingness to establish a gradual transition to market prices within three years”, said Ms Tymoshenko.
“We have come to the conclusion that our countries do not need shock therapy.”
Earlier this year, Russia briefly cut gas supplies to Ukraine, accusing it of failing to pay a debt of about $1.5bn which Kiev insisted it had paid.
Ukrainian weapons and military experts may have been used in combat against Russian troops during the brief war with Georgia in August, said Mr Putin, pointing to a report published in Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper this week.
“If this is confirmed, this will be what I have called a crime, because this is termed ‘direct involvement in an armed conflict’, pitting the Russian and Ukrainian peoples against each other”, he added.
Russian prime minister added that his country would “build its relations accordingly with those who allowed this to happen”, if Moscow received proof of Ukraine’s military involvement.
But Ms Tymoshenko said she was confident that “such facts [would] not be confirmed”.
According to correspondents, Mr Putin knows that Mrs Tymoshenko is not responsible for Ukraine’s defence policy, therefore his criticism amounted to an attack on her political rival, President Viktor Yushchenko.