Moscow, December 19 via Kremlin.Ru
Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin opened his press conference in Moscow by answering questions about Ukraine, in particular about his reasons for purchasing $15 bln-worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds and his unexpected gas price reduction to Kyiv by almost one third.
Below is a translation of key statements by Putin about Ukraine according to a transcript published on the official state website, Kremlin.RU.
“Now we see that Ukraine is in difficult situation – economically, socially, and politically. This situation emerged due to many reasons; but this is a real situation. And if we truly say that the Ukrainians are our brother people and our brother [country], then we should act like close relatives and support the Ukrainian people in this difficult situation,” said Putin.
“I assure you that this is the major reason why we made these decisions. I ask you to pay attention to the fact that in the same manner, we actively worked with the previous Ukrainian government under [Yulia] Tymoshenko in every regard. By the way, her government signed the present gas supply contract. I thought [then] and continue to think that this contract is absolutely economically reasonable and is completely in accord with our practice of working with other foreign partners. The pricing formula is the same as for consumers in Europe. There’s nothing to speculate about,” said Putin.
“Nobody choked anybody. From the very beginning – and in Ukraine too – everybody said ‘If we want to be independent, we have to pay for it, behave as an independent state, and act according to common European and global rules.’ The present gas supply contract was based on those rules,” said the Russian President.
“Why did we change the contract today? Why do we provide loans to [Ukraine]? Earlier we kept saying in energy discussions that if anyone wants to subsidize Ukraine’s economy, let him do so, but not at our expense. I think the same way today. We don’t need calls, especially from ‘third countries,’ about reducing gas prices, etc. If anyone wants to do it, let him do it. I repeat, we made our decisions according to Ukraine’s difficult economic situation,” said Putin.
“What are the external difficulties [of Ukraine]? Namely, the current state of the Ukrainian export market. Today Ukraine sells an almost equal volume of goods to Russia and to the EU for about $17 bln each. But the makeup of these trade flows is not the same. Ukraine exports machinery and equipment to Russia for 7 or more of that $17 bln, but to the EU, its machinery and equipment exports are worth only $2 bln. [However,] Ukrainian sales of agricultural products and food to the EU account for just over $5 bln. Do you understand what I mean? As an amateur sportsman, I can add that we just need to ‘flex a little muscle’ and everything will become clear [regarding Ukraine’s poor ability to resist Russian economic pressure – Translator],” said President Putin.
“People talk about the Association [The Association Agreement of Ukraine with the EU]. Are we against it? We are absolutely not against it. We just say that we will protect our own economy because we cannot keep our trade doors to Ukraine open if Ukraine opens its trade doors to the EU. We [Russians] will have to shut them [our trade doors],” said Putin.
“Under these conditions, we made a decision on the one hand due to our special relations with Ukraine. I say again, [we did so] not in the interests of Ukraine’s present authority, but in interests of the Ukrainian people. On the other hand, [we also made our decision] based on our own pragmatic calculations. Such a decision [to help Ukraine] is not our first. This year, Gazprom amended the gas deal [with Ukraine] twice – to move the terms of payment to October, then to November. Now we have moved them again. We really understand Ukraine’s difficulties with payments. So, why should we kill our major partner? So, it was our pragmatic decision. Yes, this is temporary … I hope we will find long-term solutions to maintain price of gas and increase our mutual cooperation,” said Putin.
“I think that Ukraine’s authorities have the same concerns. It’s easy to say ‘Let’s close this plant. Nothing is wrong with it. Later everything will be OK with us, as in Europe.’ But there is a need to survive to see those [good] times! Many enterprises [in Ukraine] will be closed, they will not survive. But, is it allowed to switch to [European] standards, to their trade rules? It’s allowed, and even needed. They are good. However, time and investment are also needed. Not just $15 bln. Hundreds of billions are needed to modernize enterprises [in Ukraine]. Those $15 bln are just to support the state budget, to pay salaries, pensions, and welfare,” said the Russian President.
“This [the gas price reduction and loans] has nothing to do with EuroMaidan and Ukraine’s negotiations with Europe. We just see that Ukraine is in a difficult situation, and it needs help. We had an opportunity to help, so we used it … Ukrainian politicians, economists, and experts should calculate and adopt a pragmatic decision – to do this or that. We don’t insist on anything,” Putin said.
Translated by Viktor Kovalenko and William Buschur for EuroMaidan Translations.