среда, 4 марта 2009 г.

Ukrainian Security Service raids energy company Naftogaz

KIEV, March 4 (RIA Novosti) - Masked Ukrainian Security Service agents raided the headquarters of the country's national energy company Naftogaz on Wednesday, sparking criticism from the prime minister.

The SBU security service, which is overseen by President Viktor Yushchenko, has accused Naftogaz of illegally diverting 6.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas bought from Russia.

Following news of the raid, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the sole aim of the operation was to "paralyze Naftogaz's activity and destroy the gas distribution system in Ukraine, the system of payments. They wanted to frighten people."

Tymoshenko, a former ally of the president, has recently called for early presidential elections, and expressed her intention to run against Yushchenko.

Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyanskiy told RIA Novosti that the security service personnel, some of whom were armed, demanded to be shown all the original documentation concerning the January 19 gas deal between Naftogaz and Russian gas giant Gazprom. However, he said the documents had not been seized.

Zemlyanskiy said the company's accountant had been hospitalized with high blood pressure, and that despite being in hospital she was still being put under pressure by security officers.

"She was questioned for five hours yesterday and was only released in the evening. Today, when armed people burst into her room, she suffered a hypertensive crisis," he said.

Gazprom said on Wednesday it hoped the SBU investigation would not affect payments for Russian gas supplies.

"We are concerned over the situation related to the Ukrainian security service's search conducted today at Naftogaz's central office. We hope these events will not affect the full and timely fulfillment of Naftogaz's commitments to pay for February deliveries of Russian gas to Ukraine," Gazprom said in a statement.

Zemlyanskiy said the raid and seizure of Naftogaz documents should not affect company payments to Gazprom for Russian gas received in February. Naftogaz is due to pay some $400 million by March 7.

Zemlyanskiy said later that Naftogaz had transferred to Russia over 80% of payment owed for Russian natural gas delivered in February.

"We can officially report that tonight Naftogaz received confirmation from the correspondent bank that the first tranche of payments for gas used in February has been transferred to Gazprom accounts," he said, without specifying the exact sum paid.

Ukrainian presidential spokeswoman Iryna Vannikova said on Wednesday that President Yushchenko fully supports the actions of security service officials.

"President Viktor Yushchenko fully backs the actions of security service officers who initiated and are investigating a criminal case against Naftogaz officials," she said. "The special service acts exclusively on legal grounds and in the framework of its powers defined by the law."

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