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Europe suffers gas cuts after Russia move
Updated: 2006-01-02 10:08

But they are making no comment on the security of supplies to industry and shortages could begin to bite within days.

Kiev could be final winner: analysts

Russia's move to cut off Ukraine's gas supply will reveal how dependent the former Soviet republic is on cheap natural gas, but Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko could be the ultimate winner, according to Russian analysts.

"The gas war is an electoral strategy" by Yushchenko, said Sergei Markov, a political analyst close to the Kremlin.

The cut-off seems at first a double success for the Kremlin, ensuring future increased budget receipts and a weakening of Yushchenko's leadership ahead of key parliamentary elections in March and just over a year since he came to power against a Russia-backed candidate.

But Markov, who advised Yushchenko's rival Viktor Yanukovich, said the Ukrainian president could in fact be strengthened by the dispute.

"The crisis is very handy for Yushchenko since if the parliamentary election campaign was taking place in normal conditions, he would lose them and the future constitutional reform would weaken his power," said Markov, referring to a reform that strengthens parliamentary authority in Ukraine.

"His electoral campaigners invented a strategy of breaking off talks, of refusing to compromise so as to force Gazprom to cut off the gas and provoke anti-Russian hysteria" in Ukraine, he said.

Markov's analysis was echoed by a Russian foreign affairs ministry statement released Sunday that accused the Ukrainian leadership of seeking to make political gain from the crisis by casting Russia as an "enemy."

In the closing days of 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin came up with two proposals -- one for a large commercial loan to Kiev to fund higher gas costs and the other for a price hike delay until the second quarter of 2006.

In Russian evening news bulletins on Russian television, Putin was portrayed as the moderate voice trying to find a compromise, at one stage even scolding Russian and Ukrainian energy negotiators for stoking up a "real crisis" between the two countries.

Yushchenko rejected the loan and called for a "fair" price for the gas, which he set at 80 dollars per 1,000 cubic metres.

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