After weeks of meetings to promote greater energy sanctions against Moscow, the current Minister of Energy of Ukraine, German Galushchenko (Lviv, 49 years old), warns European leaders that the region has to take radical steps if it really wants to eliminate its addiction to gas Russian before next winter. From his office in kyiv, the international trade specialist assures Five days have warned about the dangers of Russian energy since the time of Angela Merkel. In a video call, Galushchenko points out that in the last month they have received a lot of support in words, but that their country needs stronger measures against the Kremlin.
What is your opinion on the progress of European sanctions?
We are grateful for the sanctions but they are not enough. If you compare them with the amount of money that continues to enter Russia, they really do not represent almost anything. In the first 49 days of war, Europe has sent Russia approximately 37 billion euros, which they are using to finance their war. Now it is even debated that the sanctions start from August…
Do you think that Europe will approve oil sanctions soon?
I expect courage and even greater resolution. That not only the ban on oil be approved but also on Russian gas. We are hopeful that our international allies will take decisive steps towards this in the near future. President Zelensky has said it before, it doesn’t matter if they impose a sixth package or a seventh package, what matters is that the sanctions are effective. Even if they say it will take time to eliminate exports, we accept it. But stop giving money to the Russians!
Why is there so much resistance to implement these measures?
Before the war I had more than three meetings with the former German energy minister, Peter Altmaier. When I warned them that with Nord Stream 2 they were increasing the risk that the Russians would control energy prices and that Gazprom would have a monopoly over Europe, he replied: “And what do you have against the Russians? They are the best partners we have. We trust them.” I replied that we also trusted them before the war in Crimea. Later, he preferred to call it “conflict”. At that moment I understood that the position of the Germans was totally pro-Russian. This was so. That is why it is now difficult to change things. Frankly, I don’t think it’s just a dependency issue. They are smart people. There must be other hidden reasons. I don’t know if it will be politics, money or Russian influence, but there has to be something else. Here we live it and there was a lot of corruption. I cannot imagine that the Russians have offered cheap gas to Europe without gaining influence.
“I don’t know if it will be politics, money or influence, but there must be underlying reasons for the German reluctance to give up Russian gas.”
Has the situation changed with the new German government?
the new minister [Robert Habeck] is more aware of reality, but we need more. Today things are either black or white. You cannot be in the middle as is classically done in politics. Everyone has seen what happened in Bucha, but there are many more places like it where all the laws of war have been violated. For us, if you are not for it, you are against it. We have told them that if they extend until the end of the year the life of the nuclear plants that they plan to close in these months, they can avoid importing up to 9,000 million cubic meters of Russian gas. We have also told them that if they do not want to do so, they can seek to diversify. Now we will see if they are really engaged or just words.
What role is the private sector playing in this situation?
They will do what they have always done. Oil and gas import companies will continue to import and contract. Although we have received many expressions of solidarity, including from German and Austrian companies, the key decisions have to be made by politicians. Although they are private companies, they are subject to their respective jurisdictions and will comply with what the law orders.
Do you think the risk of a power outage is real?
I don’t think this is going to happen. If they wanted to do it, they would have already done it. Before the war the flows had decreased, but on the first day of the war they increased the volumes to the maximum because they needed money to finance the invasion. Europe paid for it and they continue to do so. Thus the cycle continues. Prices go up and volumes go down. Then the profits are used to continue the war. It’s really amazing.
What will be the role of Ukraine in transporting Russian gas to Europe in the future?
We have always complied with the transportation service. Even during the war we have guaranteed gas shipments, even though we did not buy it. However, if Europe decides to stop buying it, we will stop shipping it. Of course we will have to work on diversification and we will have to import from Qatar or Turkey, or we will have to implement LNG terminals to import from the United States. There are many options to explore, for example also with collective purchases and in this we want to highlight the work of the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson.
Is Ukrainian or European energy infrastructure at risk?
Our forces have already managed to retake north of kyiv, but the Russians continue to control our main nuclear plants. They have intentionally destroyed critical infrastructure like thermal power plants. They also target oil warehouses. They do it to limit the supply of our army and to harm our agricultural production. The Russian army does not respect anyone. They have even stolen the forks from the houses!
How do you think the situation will continue in the coming weeks?
At the moment there is only a skeleton in the negotiations. Of course we all prefer a ceasefire, but what I can say is that our best negotiator so far has been our military.