Russia's 2009 gas cut 'extortion' for ok on pipeline: cable

7th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's decision to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in 2009 and thereby much of Europe was partly aimed at forcing through approval of its controversial gas pipelines, hinted US diplomatic cables published by a Swedish paper Monday.

"Russia hopes to benefit from the (gas supply) crisis by gaining support for its own alternative pipelines, Nord Stream and South Stream, which are specifically designed to bypass Ukraine ... and deliver Russian gas directly to EU customers," reads a cable from the US embassy in Moscow, leaked to WikiLeaks and published by the Dagens Nyheter daily.

The cable, which is dated in November 2008 as Russia was threatening to cut off the gas supply to Ukraine over unpaid Ukrainian debts, goes on to quote one independent energy analyst, Jerry Rohan, saying the crisis was a "simple case of extortion".

Rohan "told us the case boils down to Russia telling the Europeans: 'I told you to sign up to and finance Nord Stream, so don't coming (sic) running to me when there is no gas through Ukraine'," the Moscow embassy cable said.

Dagens Nyheter also quoted a number of other cables from US embassies around Europe hinting at Russia's determination to push through its plans for the Nord Stream pipeline despite widespread criticism.

The 1,220-kilometre (760-mile) pipeline along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to Germany, which is set to begin delivering gas before the end of the year, has sparked heated protests from environmentalists who worry about the impact of both construction and any potential accidents.

One 2007 cable, also from the US embassy in Moscow, quoted the EU coordinator with Russia's foreign ministry, Dmitri Polyanski, asserting the Nord Stream pipeline would be built despite protests from Poland, Estonia, and Sweden.

"It cannot be stopped; not even by a big EU member like Poland," he was quoted in the cable by then US ambassador Bill Burns as saying.

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko meanwhile was quoted in a 2009 cable from the US embassy in Kiev as claiming the Russian gas cut-off seemed to be "aimed at discrediting Ukraine".

"Gas means politics, while large amounts of gas mean big politics," he was quoted as saying in the cable.

South Stream is another pipeline set to run 3,600 kilometers (2,250 miles) under the Black Sea and through the Balkans by 2015.

© 2011 AFP

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