Yatsenyuk: Ukraine's energy sector free from Russia

Economic rows with Kremlin in the past were tied heavily to natural gas issues.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  April 11, 2016 at 8:06 AM
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KIEV, Ukraine, April 11 (UPI) -- Securing energy independence from Russia was among the major accomplishments since civil upheaval, outgoing Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

Yatsenyuk pointed to the "absurdity" of an artificially created political crisis for his decision to end his tenure, effective Tuesday.

"Having done everything to ensure stability and continuity of our course, I declare my decision to transfer the obligations and responsibilities of the head of government of Ukraine," he said in a statement issued Sunday.

Yatsenyuk's coalition party, the People's Front, has plunged in popularity from being the second-largest in Ukraine, behind President Petro Poroshenko's Social Democratic Party, to just 1 percent in the polls.

Poroshenko has been waging a campaign against Yatsenyuk and his allies, which took power after the ouster of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014. That political upheaval came as a result of a move in Kiev toward Europe, sparking a political and national security crisis in 2013.

Lingering debt and contractual rows between Kiev and Russian energy company Gazprom in part hobbled the Ukrainian economy. Nevertheless, Yatsenyuk said breaking the Russian grip on the nation's energy sector was among his major accomplishments.

"We ensured Ukraine's energy independence from Russia," he said in his departing statements. "As responsible managers of our country, we implemented austerity measures and saved sizeable amount of finances for the development of the state."

A September profile from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds Ukraine in 2013 relied on Russia for more than 50 percent of its domestic gas consumption. That volume has since declined by about 28 percent because of reconfigured gas networks with neighboring countries.

Europe, meanwhile, faces energy security risks as Russian gas bound for the region has been fed through a Soviet-era pipeline network in Ukraine. Maros Sefcovic, a European energy commissioner, said in February that Eastern Europe may be bearing the brunt of a bloc-wide energy policy that's lagging in erasing concerns about security of supply.

Yatsenyuk during his tenure vowed to address the corruption and government bureaucracy there were dragging on the country's move away from Russia's sphere of influence. Those efforts have been slow to yield results and, in February, the International Monetary Fund warned financial support was in jeopardy without a national effort to curb political infighting.

"I am proud of the results of our government," the outgoing prime minister said. "Much of our work will be appreciated in the future."

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