Sorry Is The Hardest Word
The Ukrainians have gone visiting, so it was only natural the Russians would follow suit. Niyazov’s latest visitors, also in town to mark the Independence celebrations, were the Russian presidential energy envoy Igor Yusufov and Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Ryazanov. In what was a clear dig at the Ukrainian drama, Ryazanov remarked that cooperation between the countries was “developing normally, and there are no disputes or unresolved issues.”
The one reference to the background of problems was a reassurance that there have been no technical hindrances to the conveyance of gas to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine the leader of the Republican Party Yuriy Boiko has spoken about his optimism about the progress of negotiations. In particular, he indicated his Prime Minister’s preparedness to go to the Turkmen independence celebrations as a sign of their countries’ mutual respect.
“I am certain that relations between us and Turkmenistan will be fine if we settle up debts for the gas delivered in the first half of 2005. We have been saying this for a long time, ever since problems first began to arise,” said Boiko
And if money isn’t sufficient, Niyazov’s pride may be placated by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov’s suggestion to his Culture Minister that he organise a day devoted to Turkmen culture. During the government meeting he went on to express his satisfaction with the educational standards of the Ukrainian diaspora in Turkmenistan:
“There’s a Ukrainian school operating there and, you know, you should see what excellent Ukrainian they speak. Many would do well to study there.”
Speaking to the Energy Minister, Yekhanurov suggested information should be posted on his ministry’s web site detailing outstanding debt to the Turkmen government. The data would be updated on a weekly basis, in order for the general public to keep tabs on the rate and scale of the reimbursements. In this way, the Turkmens will be obliged to raise objections in due time, rather than at the opportune moments they have relied on to date.
And finally, doubt has been cast on earlier claims that Naftohaz Ukrayiny CEO Oleksiy Ivchenko had been refused a visa to Turkmenistan. Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Secretariat Oleg Ribachuk described the claim as cheap sensationalism. He scorned the suggestion that such manoeuvre would be in Turkmen style, and that it was just a rumour designed for PR. Indeed, it seems that such a possibility would have been technically impossible as Ivchneko was already in receipt of a diplomatic visa.
Everything points therefore to a Ukrainian scramble to bury any grievances that the last few months of disagreement have exposed.