The claims of the Russian Defense Ministry were received on August 27, 2012. At the meeting, held on September 5, the court started consideration and listened to the explanations of the parties. However, the representatives of the defendants made an application to defer the consideration of the case, which was satisfied by the court. The hearings were postponed to September 12, 2012.
Experts admit that the timing of the lawsuit was not occasional: the parliamentary elections in Ukraine are coming and Kyiv has not made significant progress in talks on gas price. To strengthen its position Kremlin is now taking certain steps.
In this case, the accusations against Tymoshenko seem consistent, including UESU and embezzlement. The question is whether the Russia's claims are just, and it really was the state guarantees to secure the deal.
ForUm has asked experts, lawyers and MPs to find out the true matter of the case.
Yegor Prytula, elder partner of the legal firm "Mitsinski and partners":
- According to our latest data, Ukraine had never given state guarantees on UESU obligations. As of the beginning of 2012 the Finance Ministry did not have any information, confirming the fact of guarantees. The Justice Ministry had also confirmed this earlier.
Moreover, in the period from 1995 to 1996 the law of Ukraine 'On budget system', which defined legal basics of the budget system and its principles, did not stipulate for the government to provide any guarantees on obligations taken by business entities.
Ivan Popesku, MP from the Party of Regions:
- When there is a situation when Russia or any other country makes a claim on state guarantees and debts, we must, first of all, find out the origin of this debt. The amount of 3.2 billion hryvnias is a huge sum of money for our budget - half what we spend on healthcare annually.
In this very case, the person who created and allowed this debt must bear responsibility. And this should be not political responsibility, but a criminal one. By the way, those involved in this case in Russia were sentenced. I believe, Russian Defense Ministry has appealed to court now because there is a trial against one of the former governors of UESU in Ukraine. I don't give names as we are having election campaign now.
Vitaly Kulik, director of the Research Center on civil society problems:
- Last time, in autumn 2011, this topic was raised by Ukraine, as one of the accusations against Tymoshenko. And now, Moscow has decided to use it for its advantage: first, it is an additional argument in the dialogue with Kyiv, and second, the sum is pretty big. In such a way Russia demonstrates that it has a strong position, and that it can stand on it regarding the gas issue and even strengthen the pressure.
It is a cold shower for those who believe we can 'shape' Russia as we see fit with the help of the EU, international courts, BRICS, aliens, voodoo or something else. In fact, Kremlin remains a powerful force Ukraine has to take into account. Yes, we can and must defend our interests with every possible means, but it's not a cause for illusions.
Evhen Leshan, political expert:
- It seems Russia has decided to put out all cold cases to use them as a pressure tool on Kyiv. Probably, in such a way Moscow wants to 'finish' the Ukrainian authorities regarding a number of issues Russia has an interest in, starting with the control over our gas transportation system.
Recently we've learnt that the estimation of our GTS is close to completion, which means the ownership structure of this asset may change.
Dmytro Marunich, expert on energy market:
- The given lawsuit is a bargaining chip between Russia and Ukraine regarding gas contracts. The timing of the lawsuit on UESU debts of 90ies is not occasional. The situation has outgrown the Ukrainian internal frames, but I doubt the success of the lawsuit.
First of all, the case was closed and a number of high-ranked officials of the Russian Defense Ministry was sentenced. As for Ukraine, though, there was no concrete decision, thus the legal grounds of this lawsuit are rather vague. Therefore, this is merely an additional tool of pressure on Kyiv.
Vitaly Bala, political scientists, director of the Agency on situation simulation:
- Relations between Russia and Ukraine have not been friendly recently, and the lawsuit is a regular step of aggravated disagreements.
We should understand that the more claims Russia makes, the less possibility Ukraine has to maneuver and avoid the Customs Union and the EuroAsian Union. In other words, Moscow may declare it lifts all claims on debts, but Ukraine must make certain concessions.
Igor Chubais, philosopher, director of the Russia Research Center under the Russian University of Peoples' Friendship:
- Economic relations, including energy issue, of Russia with other countries, especially between Russia and Ukraine, are not clear. In general, the policy of the Russian authorities is obscure for citizens.
Why now? It may be a manifestation of support to Yulia Tymoshenko, or on the contrary, the complication of the situation. The problem is that Russia is good at back-door games, and this is one of them.
Oleksandr Gudyma, MP from BYuT:
- This is a political step of Kremlin and the next tour of the showdown. For many years Russian Defense Ministry has been practicing to first file the lawsuits and then withdraw them. Now the lawsuit may be used again as a tactical argument and be withdrawn later.
In general, Russia does not make any financial operations without a political pretext, and the authorization for this lawsuit was given by the highest level.
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