Ukraine Liveblog Day 221: Russia Threatens To Cut Gas Supplies While Buffer Zone Group Meets

September 26, 2014
Donetsk Airport burns last night following shelling. Screenshot from YouTube, via

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.


In Kiev Some Are Literally Throwing Politicians In The Trash

Kyiv Post has a feature describing a new trend in protests — literally throwing corrupt politicians in the trash.

Covered in red paint and sitting in the middle of a pile of rubbish on a cold pavement in the darkness, Viktor Pylypyshyn endured insults instead of celebrating his registration as a candidate for parliamentary election as he intended on the night of Sept. 25.

“You have to stand on your knees all your life!” shouted one man as someone threw shreds of a newspaper to his face. “What are you staring at? Eyes down to the ground!”

The assault on Pylypyshyn took place as he tried to register as a parliamentary candidate. An angry mob attacked him close to the Central Election Commission and threw him in a trash bin.

According to Kyiv Post Pylypyshyn is the second MP to be thrown in the trash in the last ten days. Vitaliy Zhuravsky, a Party of Regions member, was thrown in the trash on September 16th. The politicians have been thrown in the trash for their support of a law passed on January 16th, the so-called “dictator laws,” which made protests and libeling politicians a criminal act. That vote, some experts believe, directly led to the ousting of President Yanukovych in February as protesters broke the law, triggering a crackdown against the protesters in Maidan Square.
Analysts – Donbass Needs Ukraine For Economic Survival While Ukraine Can Survive Without The Occupied Territories.

Ukraine’s Sirgis Inform argues in a lengthy article today that Ukraine would not suffer greatly, in economic terms at least, from the loss of the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The article says that while the Russian backed separatists control the population centres of the regions, key economic hubs remain under government control.

For example, Mariupol accounts for 31-36% of the total industrial output of the Donetsk region. By comparison, the city of Donetsk produces half as much. Indeed Mariupol’s two steelworks make up more than 70% of the region’s steel production of which 62.6% was sold in exports in 2013.

Similarly, hydrocarbon resources are also distributed in the government’s favour. The Yuzivska shale gas field (named after Donetsk founder John Hughes) lies, according to the article, in government-held territory. The article also states that more than 50% of the coal mined last year in the Donetsk region came from mines in government-controlled territory.

The situation in the Lugansk region is more complicated but still poor for the separatists with major chemical production areas and the largest power station in the region under government control in the north. That power station, the Luganskaya thermal power station, has, however, been shelled recently by Russian-backed forces, though it is reportedly still running.

German MP and member of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, Marieluise Beck, reported from Lugansk that Russian military engineers were laying power cables from the city to Russian territory, suggesting that Russia plans to provide the occupied city with independent power supplies.

According to the Sirgis Inform report, the region’s sole iron and steel plant in separatist-held Alchevsk accounts for 46.5% of the Lugansk region’s exports. However, according to the Lugansk Regional Administration, the plant was forced to cut production in the first half of July.

Destruction from the conflict has also forced the Stakhanov ferro-alloy plant and a number of other industrial plants in separatist-held areas to shut off production. According to the Regional Administration, the region’s industrial production for 2014 will be only half of last year’s, and, the report notes, this figure is largely due to the less affected output from the first half of this year.

Meanwhile, Sergei Kuznetsov writes in The Financial Times that the Donbass region cannot survive economically without staying in Ukraine.

He speaks to Aleksei Ryabchyn of the Ukraine Reforms Communications Taskforce, who says that the steel industry in the Donbass is largely dependent on the import of raw materials from other regions of Ukraine.

Kuznetsov writes:

The steel industry, for example, relies on raw materials from neighbouring regions in Ukraine. “In addition, it needs to import 10 to 15 per cent of its high-quality coal from the Rostov region [in Russia] to increase the quality of the metal,” Ryabchyn says.

Most of the iron ore processed by plants in Donbas is supplied from the Kryviy Rih basin in the nearby Dnipropetrovsk region. According to a strategy note from Kiev-based Concorde Capital:

“the Donbas is self-sufficient in coking coal and coke, but has no in-house sources of iron ore. The integration of the Donbas region into Ukraine’s iron ore-coke-steel chain is very deep.”

The Donbas is also heavily dependent on exports – it sells about 70 per cent of its products abroad. Ryabchyn says it is losing its traditional export markets because clients don’t want to deal with an unstable and unpredictable grey zone. He says most industrial enterprises in the Donbas have loans from western banks, while their competitiveness depends on western energy-saving technologies.

“I do not see any other reasonable way for the Donbas to exist, other than for it to remain under Ukrainian jurisdiction. Otherwise, this industrial region will die,” Ryabchyn says.

Alexander Paraschiy, the head of research at Concorde Capital, does however note that separatist controlled areas produce more than 90% of Ukraine’s anthracite, needed for power stations in other regions of Ukraine.

But according to Paraschiy, the separatist controlled territories are not self-sufficient “either in terms of the production cycle, or from the standpoint of budget revenues and expenses.”

He argues that the Ukrainian government will not provide budgetary support to regions that remain under DNR and LNR control, citing a statement by President Poroshenko on Sunday, in which he said that financial assistance would only be provided to territories that raise the Ukrainian flag. 

Those areas would, he says, likely receive economic assistance from Western aid, creating a wider gulf between the separatist-held territories, cut off from their body economy, and the functional areas under Ukrainian control. 

Leaders of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Have Strong Connections to Yanukovych’s Party Of Regions

The Insider published a story titled, “DPR Connections: The Lux Company and Yanukovych’s ‘Family'” in which they explain how two leaders of the Russian-backed self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) have obvious ties to the most wealthy oligarch in Ukraine and former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The DPR leadership changed from “Russian Orthodox” to “Donetsk” in connection with the talks on a ceasefire, a source in security agency told The Insider, as leaders with strong religious affiliations were replaced by those driven by different ideologies. Three days before the current DPR prime minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko was appointed, another less-visible appointment was made: Igor Kostenok was made minister of education and science. The article and an organizational chart trace their ties to Ukraine’s industrial wealth.


All translations by The Interpreter:

Donetsk National University was seized by the separatists, and on September 19, the  militants broke up the history faculty. Kostenok announced that university would become a branch of the Russian State Humanitarian University. Kostenok also declared that the Ukrainian language would no longer be a compulsory subject in schools.

Kostenok has been an assistant professor of general and administrative management at Donetsk State University since 1994, and a member of the board of European Choice since 1996. Since 2007 he has been deputy director of a state-funded organization, East Regional Center for Innovative Development and has been acting president of the Uglemash technology park.

The Insider had a picture of Kostenok reading a lecture on
strategic management in May 2013 along with Dmitry Chigrinsky, a player
from the team Donetsk Shakhtyor.

Along with his role at Uglemash, Kostenok has shares in two companies, Donbass Youth International Center and Donbass Coal Group. In the third quarter of 2013, 80% of Uglemash’s shares were owned by government institutions and enterprises, but two packets of 10% each were owned by Druzhkovsky Machine-Building Factory and Donetsk Energy Factory, both controlled by Rinat Akhmetov’s Gornye Mashiny (Mining Machines).

Shares in the company MMTs Donbass are owned by Ivan Gvetadze, a deputy of the Donetsk City Council who is frequently in the “tender news.” Gvetadze and his brother Teymuraz also own a company called City Construction which received a number of contracts to build the library and information center of the Donetsk National Technical University, which cost the government 79 million hrvynia [currently more than $6.1 million USD]

According to Nashi Groshi, the Gvetadze brothers are partners of Irina Safuillina (Triol-Auto), the wife of Ravil Safiullina, ex-minister of youth.

In May 2012, Forbes wrote that in the 1990s, Gvetadze, along with Aleksandr Shvedchenko, a businessman murdered in 1996, funded the Shakhtyor Soccer Club. They were the ones to propose to Akhat Bragin, known as “Alik the Greek” of the legendary Lux firm that he become the owner of the club. The vice president in 1994 was Safiullin; Bragin was murdered in 1995 in an explosion at the club. Rinat Akhmetov became president in 1996.


The Insider also mentions the relationship of Kostenok to the Donbass Coal Group. One of the co-founders of this company is Anna Bondarenko; Nina Bondarenko and Vadim Bondarenko are also founders of the civic organization For a Healthy Country. Nina also owns shares in a company called Rekkom, whose director in 2008 was none other than Pavel Gubarev, DPR’s “people’s governor.” Meanwhile Vadim headed the management of Ministry of Revenue in Donetsk Region; his predecessor in this job was Aleksandr Klimenko, one of the top-managers of Yanukovych’s “Family.”

Vadim Bondarenko was made an advisor of Klimenko several days before the crackdown on Maidan which led to Yanukovych’s flight. Back in 2004, Vadim was executive director of a branch of Sodruzhestvo, the Association of Social Support and Defense of former officers of the intelligence agencies.

Sodruzhestvo is led now by a former KGB and SBU agent in Lugansk, Sergei Sinchenko. He has also served four times as a deputy in the parliament, from the Communist Party and from Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Bloc.

Vadim also leads Evropeyskiy Vybor (European Choice); Kostenok is on the board of this organization and also another Bondarenko family member, Eduard.

Eduard Bondarenko was made general director of Donbassenergo in May 2012 and remains head. In 2013, 60% of the shares of this former state energy company were sold to Igor Gumenyuk’s Energoinvest Holding. Gumenyuk was director of ARS, a company related to Rinat Akhmetov’s group. A popular joke says that ARS stands for “Alik, Rinat, Samson.”

Party of Regions deputy Sergei Kiy, a close associate of Akhmetov’s is the main share-holder of ARC. Kiy has a mediation relationship to the organizations in which Zakharchenko, DPR’s prime minister, used to work.

But the most interesting is that Igor Gumenyuk’s brother Aleksandr heads the state organizations Donetsk Regional Center for Investments and Development. And his deputy is none other than the “DPR Education Minister.” Kostenok even is noted in the information bulletin of the State Agency for National Projects in May 2013.

Eduard Bondarenko, head of Donbassenergo, is a director of Ugoltrans, a production and transportation firm.

As Forbes has written, this company was created in 2002 by six entrepreneurs from Donetsk and Lugansk Regions. Among them was Vitaly Belyakov who in 2011 led the Donbass Accounting and Finance Center (DAFC).

DAFC controls five mining plants in Donbass which are connected to Aleksandr Yanukovych, the older son of the fugitive former Ukrainian president. DAFC delivers coal to Donbassenergo among others, getting state purchase orders in the billions of hryvnia. According to media reports, the infamous kopanki [mining shafts] which supposedly the “Family” controlled, were involved in this scheme.

For more information on the Russian business connections to the DPR found by The Insider, see our Russia This Week liveblog.

Mariupol Checkpoints Under Attack Again

Mariupol news site reports (translated by The Interpreter):

At 17:05 mass shelling of a checkpoint to the east with Grad MLRS began, report Mariupol residents.

“The booming from the explosions can be heard in the city centre and on the Left Bank.At 17:05 the shelling of the northern checkpoint started up again,” report social media.

The city defence headquarters announced that Ukrainian troops had returned fire immediately and that there was no threat to civilians.

Russia Proposes Ukraine Pays $3.1 Billion From IMF Loan For Gas, Offers 6 Month Discount

Russia’s state owned ITAR-TASS news agency reports that the Russian energy minister, Aleksandr Novak, has announced that Ukraine may receive a $100 per-1,000-cubic-metre discount on Russian gas for 6 months in exchange for paying off $3.1 billion of the debt using an IMF loan received today.

The resulting price would be $385 per 1,000 cubic metres.

The Ukrainian energy minister, Yuriy Prodan, said that Ukraine was willing to pay $3.1 billion if gas supplies were guaranteed.

ITAR-TASS reports:

“We should come to agreement on the volume of gas supplies to Ukraine. Then we will be ready to pay this amount,” he said. Prodan said the National Bank had guaranteed the disbursement of $3.1 billion to Naftogaz of Ukraine for this purpose.

Another Russian state-owned news agency, RIA Novosti, reports that The European Union proposed that in exchange for Ukraine paying $3.1 billion by the end of this year, Russia will provide 5 billion cubic metres of gas at the rate mentioned above for six months.

According to RIA Novosti, Novak said:

“The Russian side and the European Union have practically no disagreements on these packages. It can be said that our positions are similar.” 

Fighting Corruption Will Be Nearly Impossible Until New Parliament Elected

In order to survive this crisis Ukraine has to jump-start the economy, fight a war with Russia while preparing for a state of constant conflict, cut the budget deficit, and remove the corruption within the government that is both eating away at the government’s budget and shaking investors’ faith in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. And while there was significant momentum to remove corruption after Euromaidan succeeded, the process is complicated and resists quick fixes. As The Interpreter’s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss explains in his latest column for Foreign Policy, part of the problem is that unlike in Russia Ukraine’s former government actually wrote corruption into the law:

The romantic, patriotic fervor that had borne aloft high hopes for instantaneous reform has begun to ebb. Yanukovych’s mafia state was so entrenched, and had enriched so many, that it will take years to dismantle completely. “Ukrainian corruption has decreased a bit, but not by much,” Aleksei Shalaisky, the country’s leading anti-graft campaigner and the founder of the website Nashi Groshi (“Our Money”), told me. “The problem is that stealing money is inbuilt into the law, unlike in Russia, where it’s technically illegal but still tolerated. And you cannot change the law until you get rid of all the old people who made it.” But where’s the incentive to criminalize get-rich-quick schemes for freshmen parliamentarians or newly minted government ministers?

“Corruption in Ukraine is very intellectual,” Shalaisky said with a smile. “Sometimes we come up with such interesting schemes that it makes me proud of my nation.” He cited one lucrative racket done away with about a month ago: the use of intermediary resellers of police-confiscated property — from real estate to contraband cigarettes to helicopters — by Ukraine’s crooked Ministry of Justice. The resellers were all private companies, which then auctioned off the goods at a 15 percent markup, thereby depriving the state of additional revenue. The companies, of course, were owned by Yanukovych cronies.

“Now the government will be selling these items directly to buyers, using the Internet,” Shalaisky said. “The middleman has been cut out entirely.” He hopes that a promised Poroshenko reform — the creation of an independent anti-corruption bureau tasked with investigating high-level government cases — will be implemented soon. “The salaries must be high enough for policemen and prosecutors to want to do their jobs: $1,500 to $2,000 per month.”

Peter Dutczyn, of the Ukraine Reforms Communications Taskforce, has written an article for the Ukraine Crisis Media Center discussing the formation of the new National Anti-Corruption Bureau, a body which many in the Ukrainian government hope will help surgically remove the most complex elements of the Yanukovych governments corrupt practices. 

Establishing the National Anti-Corruption Bureau is an International Monetary Fund requirement linked to a USD 17 billion loan package, says the Kyiv-based NGO Anti-Corruption Action Center. President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk have both emphasized the need for such an agency. PM Yatseniuk said on September 10 that Ukraine long needed to counter the “biggest internal (national security) threat,” the deleterious effects of corruption. In the past four years alone, USD 11 billion was siphoned annually through abuse of public procurement tenders, Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko confirmed on September 9.  This could change once the bill is approved.

Called the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the top anti-corruption official would be competitively chosen in an open process, having had held at least five years of executive management experience. To ward off corruption within the Bureau, the monthly salaries of employees would start at UAH 18,000 for detectives, the lowest rank of employee at the planned new body. The bureau chief would receive UAH 61,000.

Dmytro Shymkiv, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration for administrative, social and economic reforms, says the bill gives the future bureau special powers. These powers include a team of specially appointed independent prosecutors, and the power to exclusively probe crimes committed by civil servants and government officials. He has reiterated that the agency is an investigative body that will be completely independent and focus only on senior officials and the fight against corruption.

Shymkiv, whom The Interpreter’s editors Michael Weiss and James Miller met while in Kiev, stressed, as does Dutczyn, that the removal of the current parliament was absolutely necessary in order to pass important reform legislation. Again, Dutczyn reports:

On September 15, the day before the vote [to establish the National Anti-Corruption Bureau], protestors outside Parliament demanded the adoption of anti-corruption laws and creation of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. But the next day the respective draft law No. 4780 garnered just 59 votes, far short of the minimum of 226 needed. Shamefully, 282 MPs failed to even cast a vote.

It is still more than a month before the new parliamentary elections, and thus the reform effort is likely to continue to lag. In the meantime, Ukraine must continue to cut its budget while ramping up its military in order to both resist Russian aggression and meet the requirements of the loan package given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Ukraine’s economy is struggling, making cost-saving reforms even more necessary. And, just a reminder, it is mostly pro-Russian MPs in the parliament who are blocking these reforms, while Russia continues to hinder Ukraine’s economy:

Hospital Reportedly Shelled In Schastye reports that a hospital in Schastye was shelled this morning.

Their correspondent in the town reported that shelling came from the village of Vesyolaya Gora, to the south, between 10:30 and 10:50 local time. The hospital lecture theatre was struck.

At around 11:30 the shelling resumed. A local school building was struck. According to initial reports one woman was killed and 12 people wounded.

The exact number of casualties is yet to be confirmed.

Germany Says Rebel Elections Undermine Minsk Peace Agreement

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sawsan Chebli said today that the Russian-backed separatists’ plan to hold elections on November 2 is a clear breach of the peace plan agreed upon in Minsk:

“The separatists’ announcement of plans to hold so-called parliamentary elections on Nov. 2 is clearly a violation of the Minsk agreement of Sept. 5 and damages the fragile peace process,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Kiev and “the whole world” will not recognise such a vote. Ukraine proposes local elections, under government supervision, in December in eastern areas where rebels have set up “people’s republics”.

However, earlier Russian statements suggest that their expectation is that elections will be held.

But while the world focuses on diplomacy in Minsk, the Russian-backed militants continue to chip away at Ukrainian positions while openly plotting more advances. Yes, this is a frozen conflict, but glaciers move and the Russian-backed militants are slowly creeping forward while Ukraine loses ground and world leaders hail a ceasefire.

Donetsk Airport Reportedly Sees Heaviest Night Of Shelling Yet

According to, the Ukrainian soldiers destroyed two enemy tanks andlit a third one on fire while defending the international airport from Donetsk from the most intense intense night of fighting yet.

According to Censor.NET, one of the men at the airport told Ukrainska Pravda that “from yesterday morning until the morning today they tried to attack us. They were shelling us with everything they have: mortars, grads, howitzers, tanks and the infantry were going on us,” he said. “Almost every day they shelled us and tried to attack, but this was the most powerful assault of all the time,” the soldier added.

At one point in this video you can hear the tanks in this video
Away from the airport, in the separatist-held city which has benefited from the ceasefire, things are returning to normal.
2 Blasts In Kharkiv Last Night, As Separatists Call For Pro-Russian Rally

The city of Kharkiv, which, while once the scene of pro-Russian protests in the early stages of the conflict, lies well outside the current field of hostilities, was the scene of two explosions last night.

The blasts, Interfax-Ukraine reports, occurred in a multi-storey apartment block and a supermarket. 

The first explosion occurred at around 2:45 am, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Kharkiv police and prosecutor’s office:

On September 26 at around 2:45, the Kominternovsky Police Department call centre received reports of an explosion in a residential building on Lebedinsky street.

During the initial collection of evidence, it was established that unknown individuals fired what was likely a grenade launcher towards the 10-storey block.

As a result, the window aperture of the office of a private lawyer and volunteer was damaged and glass was also broken in four other windows.

The office belonged to Oleg Golovkov, a volunteer and candidate in the upcoming local elections.

At around  4:30 am, a PrivatBank ATM machine at the Brunsichka supermarket on Academic Valter street, to the north of the city, was damaged by another blast.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office is regarding the incidents as terrorist acts. No casualties were reported.

The incident follows a grenade attack on the evening of September 24-25 in Odessa, another city well outside the conflict zone.

On pro-separatist VKontakte groups, flyers and videos have appeared in the past few days calling on residents of the town to rally against the Ukrainian government. 




September 28 2014 – Rally at 16:00 on Freedom square

Defend the interests of your city!

Don’t be apathetic about your fate and the fate of your people!

An illegal seizure of power has taken place in the country.

We do not recognise the illegal Kiev government!

Federalisation is the way to the future prosperity of the region!

Say ‘no’ to the murderers of Kharkiv people!

Your silence today costs the life of someone tomorrow!

We are for the unity of the Russian peoples!

We are against the EU!

We are against the cabal of IMF creditors!

We are against joining NATO!

We are for the Russian language!

We defend our values and culture!

This video was also distributed on pro-Russian social media:

The Interpreter has transcribed and translated the audio:

Gentlemen who have reached power:

We don’t see the point any more in peaceful actions and don’t believe in the effectiveness of peace negotiations with you. The events in Kiev, Odessa, Kharkiv and the Donbass unambiguously indicate your inherent baseness and inhuman blood-thirstiness. For the sake of your own selfish, mercantile interests [inaudible] on people, of all ethnic groups living in our country.

Mr. Avakov, [inaudible] and the rest of his company, and other home-grown ultras, EuroMaidan, Right Sector, and the territorial battalions. Traveling performers from the Interior Ministry fulfilling the criminal orders of the junta are too costly for us and for Kharkiv. 

We inform you, that very soon, information about you, members of your family, your relatives, your friends, your properties, your businesses, your typical travel routes and places of stay will be posted on the Internet with free access. Separately, we warn you that we will learn which of you, when and where, caused a provocation against the Kharkiv residents for a peaceful rally. Remember: for them, you will get an irreversible, immediate response. We will come to each of you. Expect us.

While peace talks continue and the borders of the territory already seized by Russian-backed forces are consolidated by the buffer zone and the ‘special status’ bill, it appears that an expansion of the conflict, by the same means – apparently grass roots activists taking up arms, into areas previously spared the horrors of the war, may be taking place.

All translations by The Interpreter.

Russia Threatens To Cut European Gas Supplies In Retaliation For Reverse-Supplying Ukraine

Gas talks, brokered by the EU, began between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Berlin today.

Russia’s state-owned ITAR-TASS news agency reported:

Taking part in the consultations will be EU’s outgoing energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuri Prodan. The focus will be made on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and issues of energy security, a spokesman for the Berlin office of the European Union told ITAR-TASS. The key task of the talks is to ensure uninterrupted gas supplies both to Ukraine and the European Union in the coming winter.

The talks will end with a news conference, which is preliminarily planned for 14:00 local time (12:00 UTC). It is not yet ruled out however that this time might be changed – it will depend on how the talks proceed, the spokesman noted.

The EU Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, said at a press conference yesterday that he hoped that a deal could be made to ensure Ukraine received enough gas to “avoid any lack of supply between October and April,” Deutsche Welle reports.

According to Deutsche Welle:

EU sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the news agency Reuters that the EU was planning a one-off purchase from Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom at roughly market prices.

Ukraine would pay a price, the sources said, somewhere between its old deal with Gazprom of $268.50 (210.7 euros) per thousand cubic meters and the price Gazprom is now demanding from Ukraine of $485.50. By comparison, Western utilities pay less than $400 per thousand cubic meters. Depending on price and volume, such a one-off deal would cost Ukraine between $1.34 billion and $9.71 billion.

Whether a deal can be struck depends on the government in Moscow.

AFP reported this morning that Aleksandr Novak, the Russian energy minister, had warned, in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper, that if European states continue to supply Ukraine with ‘reverse-flow’ gas that was originally imported from Russia, then Russia could cut supplies.

“…the agreed contracts do not foresee a re-export. We hope that our European partners will stick to the agreements. That is the only way to ensure there are no interruptions in gas deliveries to European consumers.”

This news comes this morning as Ukraine announced that Hungary had ceased providing reverse flow gas yesterday at 19:00 Kiev time.

While Hungary notified Ukraine that the supplies were being stopped for “technical reasons,” the Financial Times reports that the cessation of reverse flow supplies to Ukraine came following a meeting between the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and the head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, in Budapest on Monday.

Earlier this month, Gazprom cut supplies of gas to Poland, which has been reverse-supplying Ukraine along with Slovakia, by 20-24%, claiming the drop in supplies was due to technical maintenance.

In another worrying move, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, told The Wall Street Journal that the EU will not rule out changes to their Association Agreement with Ukraine if Kiev requests them. Such a request of course would likely be made under Russian pressure, a point which Barroso himself made clear:

“We are open and we are constructive and are pragmatic,” he said, adding that the EU is willing to discuss questions about both the implementation and the impact of the agreement. “If the Ukrainians—listening to Russian concerns—want to discuss some matters with us, of course we are ready to listen.”

The Wall Street Journal notes that such a situation has been warned against by other European diplomats:

On Wednesday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said the compromise was “not a very right step.” He said “the gates are open” now for Russia to press for a major revision of the pact and warned against that happening.

Ukrainian And Russian Officials Meet To Begin Work On Buffer Zone

Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine report that Ukrainian and Russian officials met, together with OSCE representatives today  in Donetsk to work on the designation of a 30 km buffer zone along the front lines between Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces, as agreed upon at the Minsk talks.

The Russian delegation included 76 military officials.

Interfax-Ukraine reports, citing a statement from the ATO Press Centre on the work of the tripartite group, which began work at 8 am today:

The center’s working group will take measures to establish a complete ceasefire regime.

It is planned to withdraw artillery systems of more than 100 millimeter caliber and create a 30-kilometer delimitation zone, which is envisaged by the Minsk memorandum, as well as to dismantle previously installed mines and explosive barriers in the designated areas of the warring parties. The ceasefire zone will be divided into four or five security sectors, where three to five OSCE monitoring groups and representatives of Ukraine and Russia will work.

“This working group of the joint center will monitor the ceasefire during the entire period of the stabilization of the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” the report says.

Russia’s Kommersant published this potential map of the buffer zone on September 22:


The establishment of a buffer zone may be the first step in consolidating a frozen peace and the perpetual occupation by Russian-backed forces of swathes of eastern Ukraine. To demonstrate how much of this territory was only gained in the last few weeks since Russian forces began a major offensive to retake territory lost to Ukrainian successes over the summer, the Kyiv Post has produced an infographic: